Summary of these participants were school pupils and 271

 

Summary

Alcohol consumption is increasing among young people and
different reasons have been given to understand why young people engage in
excessive drinking. It is understood that young people drink because they find
it pleasurable and it is a huge part of their social lives. The ‘Prototype
Willingness Model’ in the Davies et al., (2017) paper claims that alcohol consumption is a result of social
companion which influences the willingness to drink and subsequent behaviour. It
also claims that risky drinking in young people can be influenced by ‘implicit
attitudes’ due to regular exposure to alcohol over time.

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The reviewed paper by Davies et al., 2017 aimed to assess
whether the concept of ‘implicit alcohol attitudes’ would be able to improve
the prediction of an individual’s willingness and behaviour towards risky
drinking. The study focused on the social reaction pathway of the ‘Prototype
Willingness Model’ which states that young people’s drinking behaviour is
unplanned and part of a social context. It claims that the image young people
associate with drinkers and non-drinkers can be influential in predicting their
willingness and behaviour towards drinking because of self-image and social
comparison. Secondly, another aim of the study was to assess whether this
difference would be found among school pupils and university students. This
study was a cross sectional study and 501 individuals participated in the
experiment. 230 of these participants were school pupils and 271 of the
participants were university students. Explicit measures of alcohol consumption
were measured using prototype perception, willingness, drunkenness, harms and
intentions questionnaires. Additionally, participants completed an implicit
measure of alcohol attitudes using the Implicit Association Test (IAT). Data
analysis consisted of Pearson’s correlation to assess the relationship between
the study measures. T-tests were also used to test the differences in IAT scores
and hierarchical regression was used to assess the implicit alcohol attitudes
and explicit measures in predicting the willingness or behaviour to engage
individuals in risky drinking. Participants who did not complete the IAT were
excluded from the analysis.

To conclude Davies et al., 2017 found that there was a weak
correlation between implicit alcohol attitudes and explicit measures. Lastly
their study found that implicit alcohol attitudes could distinguish the
difference between willingness and intention among school pupils and university
students. Among school pupils, willingness was strong predictor of behaviour
compared to implicit alcohol attitude. Whereas this differed among university
students as implicit attitudes added to the prediction of behaviour over
intention and willingness. A critical evaluation of Davies et al., 2017’s methods,
implications for future research and impact upon the health psychology field is
discussed.

Review

The reasons why young people consume alcohol and drink excessively
has been analysed using the ‘Prototype Willingness Model’. The model explains why
young people consume alcohol using the social reaction pathway which claims
that young people’s behaviour tends to occur in social circumstances and is
often unpredictable (Gerrard, Gibbons, Houlihan, Stock, & Pomery,
2008).
The ‘Prototype Willingness Model’ has been criticized by others in terms of
understanding alcohol consumption since willingness to engage in a behaviour
cannot be measured simply using prototype evaluations which one has to
influence them to drink (Litt & Lewis, 2017). Additionally, the Prototype
Willingness Model has been criticized by the authors themselves as it doesn’t
capture the prosperity of an individual to act without thinking about the future
(Davies et al., 2017).

The work conducted by Davis et al., 2017 was unique in the
sense that they were the first to investigate implicit attitudes related to
alcohol within the Prototype Willingness Model framework. Implicit alcohol
attitudes taps into past behaviour which form association in memory and
influence behaviour in an automatic way (Thush & Wiers, 2007). Those who have positive
outcomes associated with alcohol consumption are more likely to drink compared
to those who do not hold these beliefs (Frings, Melichar, & Albery, 2016). On
the other hand, explicit alcohol attitudes state the importance of value,
attitude and expectancy in associating an individual engaging in an alcoholic
behaviour (Pieters et al.,2010). The explicit alcohol attitudes acknowledge the
personal experiences towards alcohol consumption and their motives to drink
(Pieters et al.,2010).Explicit alcohol attitudes are made intentionally,
accessed consciously under the individual’s cognitive control(Pieters et
al.,2010). These differ compared to implicit alcohol attitudes which argue that
behaviour is a result of automatic responses in the brain. The use of implicit
attitudes on top of the social reaction pathway revealed insights into alcohol
related cognition that differ to explicit measures which involve
self-representation among individuals and thoughtful responses compared to more
impulsive initial reactions in implicit measures (Payne & Lee, 2017). Implicit attitudes measures have
been found to be less susceptible to bias as they measure the strength of
unconscious association that are not easily spontaneous (Frings et al., 2016).

In the current study, they found that among university students,
implicit alcohol attitudes added to the prediction of behaviour, above
willingness and intention (Davies et al., 2017). University students, regardless
of drinking experience were frequently exposed to alcohol as part of university
culture (Webb, Ashton, Kelly, & Kamali, 1996). This would therefore explain
why implicit alcohol attitudes among university students added to the prediction
of behaviour compared to school pupils. Intention was associated with high
levels of drunkenness for university students compared to school pupils (Davies et al., 2017). In addition, work by Davis
et al., 2017 found that that willingness and not intention was a factor in
predicting behaviour among school pupils engaging in risking scenarios. Similar
results were found the previous year by Davis et al., 2016 who showed that among
young adolescents, willingness was higher than intention but among older
adolescents and young adults, intention was stronger as the experience of
drinking increases.

In line with the ‘Prototype Willingness Model’, the study by
Davies et al 2017 showed that in adolescents, willingness was a strong reason
for engaging in risky behaviour such as drinking and for young adults, drinking
was associated with experience and intention. For adolescents, drinking alcohol
is not their intention but their willingness to take a risk that determines
their behaviour whereas this differs for young adults since drinking is
intentional in driving them to a behaviour (Gibbons et al., 1998). Therefore, interventions
aimed at reducing alcohol consumption should be able to distinguish the two
main reasons:  willingness for
adolescents and intention university students in engaging in drinking. They
should focus on the two groups separately and thus come up with different
interventions. Moreover, being able to understand when and why young people
start drinking alcohol is a continual important psychological and public health
problem (Davies et al., 2016).

The work by Davis et al., 2017 was insightful because it
showed that the implicit alcohol attitudes alongside the social pathway can be used
as intervention in reducing alcohol consumption in young people. Implicit
alcohol attitudes are able to capture experiences of those with previous knowledge
of drinking and their associations with drinking alongside the Prototype Willingness
Model used to predict behaviour (Thush & Wiers, 2007). Positive implicit attitudes
were associated with higher levels of drunkenness for university students
compared to lower levels of drunkenness among pupils (Davies et al.,2017).
However, the current study by Davies et al., 2017 can be criticised for not
recognising the importance of explicit alcohol attitudes in terms of why an
individual might engage in risk behaviour such as drinking.

Notwithstanding those ?ndings,
implicit attitudes are suggested to play an important

role in guiding alcohol consumption
(Houben & Wiers, 2008; Payne, Govorun, &

Arbuckle, 2008; Thush & Wiers,
2007). Because implicit attitudes are suggested to guide

automatic behaviour (Fazio, 1990b;
Olson & Fazio, 2009), interfering automatic

associations might lead to more
controlled behaviour in alcohol consumption and, in

turn, to decreased consumption (Thush
& Wiers, 2007

Explicit alcohol attitudes have been criticized as attitudes
and expectancy are captured by self-report studies not giving true reflection
or under representation of alcohol consumption (McPherson & Harris 2013).
Implicit alcohol attitudes, however, can be understood by implicit Association
Tests (IAT) which access the unconscious bias through memory association (Payne & Lee, 2017). Davies et al., 2017 fully
acknowledge that to be able to understand the role of the Prototype Willingness
Model, both implicit alcohol attitudes and explicit alcohol association should
be adapted alongside the social reaction pathway in predicting behaviour. To
fully to be able to understand why young people engage in drinking, their
beliefs, attitudes and expectancy need to be considered to predict behaviour.

Implicit Alcohol tests have been criticized as participants
can forged newly formed attitudes rather that’s what’s expected of them. It was
found that when individuals were not aware of the fact that objects were paired
with either positive or negative stimuli it was impossible for them to know
which attitudes they forged (Houwer & Bruycker, 2007). Whereas when participants
were aware, they could easily create new ideas and know which attitudes to
forged (Houwer & Bruycker, 2007). Although IATs are reliable, they
have been criticized as individuals are still not immune to forged implicit
measures therefore it’s hard to assess how accurate implicit alcohol attitudes
are in predicting behaviour of individuals in engaging in risky drinking. However,
the novelty of this study by Davies et al., 2017 is that two modes of the IAT
were used which were paper and pen and a computerized test. They analysed the scores
of the participants who reported to have been drunk (ranging from zero to 6 occasions)
in the last month and found no significant differences between the Implicit
Association Test scores of the groups regardless of the type of measure (Davies et al., 2017).

Furthermore, fundamental use of statistical methods and
analysis are used to communicate research and this study
used hierarchical regression to assess whether implicit attitudes would predict
behaviour of self-report drunkenness over and above intention and willingness.
When looking at the sample as a whole, the model predicted 19.7 of the variance
in behaviour R²=.197, p.001. When implicit attitudes were added a small
variance of 1.4 was found but it was found to be significant R²=.014,
p=.009). Davies et al., 2017 also used binary moderator to assess whether
experience with alcohol and exposure to alcohol within the university and
school pupils would differ. For university students, they found the interaction
between implicit attitudes and experience (p= 0.003) to be significant. Hierarchical
regression has been found to be effective as it shows whether variables of your
interest explain a statistically significant amount of variance in the
dependent variable after accounting for all variables. The strength of this
study is that when implicit attitudes were assessed with other variables such
as intentions, drunkenness, harms, drinker similarity and non-drinker
favourability there was a weak correlation. However, hierarchical regression
did find that with university students, intention and alcohol attitudes were
associated with predicting behaviour whereas willingness was a factor in
predicting behaviour among adolescents.

Explicit cognitions refer to
cognitions that can be

accessed consciously, are intentional
and under indivi-

duals’ cognitive control. To measure
explicit alcohol-

related cognitions, people are asked
about their attitudes

towards alcohol, personal
expectancies about the effects

of alcohol consumption or motives to drink

Explicit cognitions refer to
cognitions that can be

accessed consciously, are intentional
and under indivi-

duals’ cognitive control. To measure
explicit alcohol-

related cognitions, people are asked
about their attitudes

towards alcohol, personal
expectancies about the effects

of alcohol consumption or motives to
drink.

Methodology limitation

There are various methodology issues associated with the
Davies et al., (2017) paper which include the use of self-reports in measuring
alcohol consumption among school pupils and university students. Lintonen et
al., (2004) noted that social desirability associated with a drug can lower the
validity in reporting its use. For example, the more stigmatized alcohol
consumption is, the high chance an individual would not report taking part in
that activity.  This is shown in previous
studies which found that university students may under report their alcohol
although assured of confidentiality (Davis, Thake, & Vilhena, 2010). In addition, there are other
factors associated with self-reports which include the accuracy of an
individual being able to recall what’s asked of them. For example, frequency of
drunkenness assessed how many times in the last month the participant had been
drunk therefore limiting accuracy of number given by the participant. The
current study by Davis et al. (2017) found weak correlation between explicit
measures and implicit alcohol attitudes. Lastly self-reports can also be
affected by the environment in which they take place, in this case the study
took place in a class therefore this can influence respondent’s answers (Brener
et al., 1995). However, Bjarnason (1995) noted that situational place does not
affect respondent context and that it made no difference if the questionnaire
was administered by a teacher or a research assistant. The study by Davies et
al., 2017 only captures a snap- shot of willingness, intentions and alcohol
implicit attitudes in predicting drinking behaviour. Perhaps if a longitudinal
study was done there would be a high correlation in being able to use implicit
attitudes with the social reaction pathway in predicting drinking behaviour

In order to understand willingness to drink the word ‘likely
to drink’ rather than ‘willing to drink’ was used due to adolescents
misunderstanding the meaning of ‘willing’ based on previous research by (Rivis
& Sheeran, 2013). The use of the word ‘likely’ used in the study may
capture expected behaviour rather than willingness of an individual to engage
in a behaviour. Perhaps if the word ‘willing’ was used it’s possible that
school pupils would have reported in engaging in risky behaviour compared to
university students and this could explain the difference that was found among
the two groups.

Those who took part in the study can be seen as a limitation.
The sample consisted of 501 participants- 271 university students and 230
school pupils. The mean population in this sample was 19 years old. It is
understandable why the researchers used university student and schools as they
are convenient to recruit (Kazdin, 1992). Additionally, alcohol consumption is
highest among those ages 16-24 (Office for National Statics, 2016) and by the
age of 16, 90% of adolescents would have tried alcohol and by the time they go
to university, alcohol plays a significant part in their lives (Craigs, et al., 2011). However, it is clear that Davis
et al., (2017) sample is non-representative  of the general population and Hayes (2000)
notes that school pupils and university students are young people’s populations
whose lives differs compared to the general population not studying however
generally, the study still encompasses young people. Gender is key in assessing
alcohol consumption as men are more likely than women to consume more alcohol
and cause more problems doing so (Word Health Organization 2014). In this study
63% of the participants were female however gender difference was not
considered.

Discussion

To conclude, Davies et al., (2017) study was the
first to explore the association of implicit attitudes to the Prototype
Willingness Model in young people. Although implicit alcohol attitudes only
showed a small significant difference in prediction of behaviour over
willingness and intention it was key in highlighting new concepts such as
experience in predicting an individual’s likelihood to drink. The Prototype
Willingness Model is mostly about the role of willingness and intention in the
development of alcohol behaviour, yet implicit alcohol attitudes show that
alcohol behaviour is linked to past behaviours and memories which can predict whether
an individual is likely to drink