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Happy Hour: The association between trait hedonic capacity and motivation to drink alcohol

Becker, Daniela; Bernecker, Katharina (2024). Happy Hour: The association between trait hedonic capacity and motivation to drink alcohol. Addictive Behaviors Reports, 19, p. 100537. 10.1016/j.abrep.2024.100537

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The (over)consumption of alcohol and other addictive substances is often conceptualized as a problem of low self-control (i.e., people’s inability to inhibit unwanted impulses). According to that view, people drink because they cannot resist. In the present studies, we approached this from a different perspective and tested whether alcohol consumption might also be a problem of low hedonic capacity (i.e., people’s inability to experience pleasure and relaxation, often due to intrusive thoughts). According to that view, people drink because it helps them enjoy or cope with negative thoughts or emotions. In two studies among individuals at low risk of harmful alcohol use (e.g., AUDIT < 7) we consistently found that trait hedonic capacity was unrelated to alcohol consumption but negatively related to coping motivation (drinking alcohol to cope with negative thoughts and feelings; Study 1: N = 348; Study 2: N = 302, preregistered). Exploratory analyses in study 2 (conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic) also showed that people with low, but not high, trait hedonic capacity drank more alcohol in response to stress. Our findings are in line with the notion that people’s drinking motivation and behavior might not only be a problem of poor self-control but also of low trait hedonic capacity. They align with a new direction in addiction prevention and treatment research, which explores ways to help people to seek out and savor hedonic experiences from non-drug related reinforcers (e.g., engaging in leisure activities).

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

PHBern Contributor:

Bernecker, K.






Jessica Brunner

Date Deposited:

27 May 2024 10:00

Last Modified:

10 Jun 2024 13:08

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Alcohol use, Hedonic capacity, Motivation to drink, Self-regulation, Stress




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