In apparent contrast to the alleged importance of positive alcohol expectancies in alcohol (ab)use, a series of studies using the Implicit Association Test (IAT; [Greenwald, A. G., McGhee, D. E., & Schwartz, J.L.K. (1998). Measuring individual differences in implicit cognition: The Implicit Association Test. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 1464-1480]), found that heavy and light drinkers display more negative implicit attitudes toward alcohol than toward sodas (e.g., [Wiers, R. W., van Woerden, N., Smulders, F. T. Y., & de Jong, P. J. (2002). Implicit and explicit alcohol-related cognitions in heavy and light drinkers. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 111, 648-658]). One explanation for this might be that the negative-alcohol IAT effect reflects an artifact of the IAT procedure and are due to its relative nature and/or its sensitivity to task recoding strategies. Therefore, the present study used a non-relative measure that has been argued to be robust against participants' task recoding strategies (Extrinsic Affective Simon Test; EAST, [De Houwer, J. (2001). A structural and process analysis of the Implicit Association Test. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 37, 443-451]) to test heavy (n = 16) and light (n = 16) drinkers' automatic affective associations with alcohol and sodas. Heavy and light drinkers displayed clear positive associations with sodas and neutral (or ambivalent) automatic associations with alcohol. Importantly, positive automatic alcohol associations predicted unique variance of alcohol (mis)use and was the single best predictor of individuals' alcohol problems, underlining the idea that they do play a role in alcohol (mis)use.

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Addictive Behaviors
Department of Psychology