Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2010

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Nathan, Peter E

Second Advisor

O'Hara, Michael W

First Committee Member

Levin, Irwin P

Second Committee Member

Pascarella, Ernest T

Third Committee Member

Tranel, Daniel


The primary aim of the present study was to determine whether impairment on neuropsychological measures of decision making predicts increased alcohol use among college students. It was hypothesized that poorer performance on measures of decision making would predict linear increase on indicators of alcohol consumption across the first year of college. An additional aim was to assess whether established risk factors for college student drinking would moderate the association between decision making abilities and increased alcohol consumption, with the expectation that decision making would be more strongly associated with escalation in alcohol use for participants that are male, have a family history of alcohol abuse, report a longer history of pre-college alcohol use, hold more positive alcohol expectancies, and are more impulsive. Aims were pursued in a relatively homogeneous sample of first year college students (N = 136), using a prospective, longitudinal design in which decision making and drinking were assessed at three time-points during the first year of college. Participants additionally provided sociodemographic information and completed self-report impulsivity and alcohol expectancy questionnaires at each assessment. Results showed that drinking and associated negative consequences increased over time during the participants first year in college. However, there was generally little support for the hypotheses that poor decision making abilities are a risk factor for increased alcohol consumption, and that the association is moderated by established risk factors for drinking. Results suggest the need to consider whether drinking is indeed indicative of impaired decision making and underscore the importance of including other factors, especially perceived benefits and influence of social pressure, in models of decision making striving to predict drinking among college students.


binge drinking, decision making, first year college, longitudinal, neuropsychology


viii, 119 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 86-102).


Copyright 2010 Dana Figlock

Included in

Psychology Commons