The impact of sexual self-concept ambiguity on alcohol approach bias and consumption

Amelia E. Talley, Kimberly Fleming, David W. Hancock, Kenneth J. Sher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The current work sought to examine both intra-individual and situational features that can predict heightened alcohol misuse among individuals who report sexual-orientation self-concept ambiguity (SSA). It was hypothesized that situations that evoke the salience of individuals’ sexuality will contribute to alcohol misuse among individuals who report heightened SSA. In the first experiment, fifty-nine students were recruited from psychology subject pools at two large state universities. Following a writing manipulation, used to evoke a state of heightened self-focus on an individual's sexuality, participants completed the Alcohol Approach-Avoidance Task, which served as a marker of implicit bias toward alcohol-related cues. In the second experiment, ninety-four women between the ages of 21 and 35 were recruited into a lab-based study. Utilizing procedures similar to the first experiment, we attempted to test our research questions in an ad lib drinking study. Among young adults with greater SSA, situations that induced heightened self-focus were predictive of increased approach bias toward alcohol-related cues and increased consumption of an ostensibly alcoholic beverage. Evidence supported a causal link between the situational salience of sexuality and acute risk of alcohol-approach bias and consumption behavior among those with heightened SSA. Preventive interventions may highlight variation in risk of alcohol misuse based on identity-related risk factors, such as sexual self-concept ambiguity, and drinking motivations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-160
Number of pages6
JournalAddictive Behaviors
StatePublished - May 2019


  • Addiction
  • Alcohol
  • Drinking
  • Experiment
  • Identity uncertainty
  • Sexual self-concept ambiguity


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