Psychology (B.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Faculty Mentor

Jessica Brooks


The semantic network model of memory states that concepts closely related (e.g., pencil-paper) are stored together in memory (Posner & Snyder, 1975). When one concept is activated, other related concepts becoming more accessible, which increases the likelihood that related concepts will influence behavior. Past research has established a link between aggressive behaviors after exposure to alcohol-related words (Bartholow, Grosvenor, Pedersen, Truong, & Vasquez, 2014). Previous research has also shown that alcohol outcome expectancies contribute to problematic drinking behavior (Fromme, Stroot, & Kaplan, 1993). In the present study, alcohol outcome expectancies of each participant were assessed by the CEOA questionnaire. Then, participants were randomly assigned to one of four conditions: control – aggression, control – non-aggression, alcohol – aggression, or alcohol – non-aggression. The two alcohol conditions included priming with alcohol-related words (beer, vodka), and the two control conditions including priming with non-alcoholic words (milk, soda) by use of the Lexical Decision Task. The current study sought to explore the effect of alcohol-related stimuli priming on the expression of relational aggression in a sample of 70 college students (Mage = 19.40; SD = 1.64). Statistical analyses revealed a significant difference between the control – aggression group and the alcohol – aggression group on the rating of experimenter performance using a three-item hostility assessment. These findings show the effect of alcohol-related words on an individual’s relational aggression behaviors, without the involvement of any alcohol consumption. Implications, limitations, and future directions are further discussed.