Learning to dislike alcohol: Conditioning negative implicit attitudes toward alcohol and its effect on drinking behavior

K.M.P.I. Houben*, R.C. Havermans, R.W.H.J. Wiers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Since implicit attitudes toward alcohol play an important role in drinking behavior, a possible way to obtain a behavioral change is changing these implicit attitudes.

This study examined whether a change in implicit attitudes and in drinking behavior can be achieved via evaluative conditioning.

Participants were randomly assigned to an experimental condition and a control condition. In the experimental condition, participants were subjected to an evaluative conditioning procedure that consistently pairs alcohol-related cues with negative stimuli. In the control condition, alcohol-related cues were consistently paired with neutral stimuli during the evaluative conditioning phase. Implicit attitudes, explicit attitudes, and drinking behavior were measured before and after the evaluative conditioning phase.

Following the evaluative conditioning procedure, participants in the experimental condition showed stronger negative implicit attitudes toward alcohol and consumed less alcohol compared to participants in the control condition. However, this effect was only found when the evaluative conditioning task paired alcohol-related cues with general negative pictures, but not when using pictures of frowning faces.

These results demonstrate that evaluative conditioning can effectively change implicit attitudes toward alcohol and also suggest that this procedure can be used to change drinking behavior. Hence, evaluative conditioning may be a useful new intervention tool to combat alcohol misuse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-86
Number of pages8
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2010


  • Alcohol
  • Drinking behavior
  • Evaluative conditioning
  • IAT
  • Implicit attitudes

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