Understanding alcohol motivation using the alcohol purchase task: A methodological systematic review

Brent A. Kaplan, Rachel N.S. Foster, Derek D. Reed, Michael Amlung, James G. Murphy, James MacKillop

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


Background: The Alcohol Purchase Task (APT) is a behavioral economic assessment of alcohol demand (i.e., motivation for consumption during escalating levels of response cost) using simulated marketplace survey techniques. While the APT is often used and widely cited, to date, there has yet to be a systematic review elucidating the variability in administering and analyzing the APT. The purpose of the current paper is to address this knowledge gap in the literature by cataloging the various purchase task methodologies and providing recommendations and future areas of inquiry. Methods: The PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) methodology was utilized (Prospero: No. CRD42017072159). Searches through Google Scholar, PsychINFO, PubMed, and SpringerLink databases identified 47 empirical articles referencing the use of an APT and published through the year 2016. Articles were coded for demographic and procedural characteristics, structural characteristics of the APT itself, and characteristics of data analysis. Results: Results indicate substantial variation within categories and suggest that there is no standard approach to administering the APT or analyzing the responses generated from it. The results underscore the need for researchers to report as much information as possible related to administration, instructions, price structuring, and analytical approach, as we found that many articles did not provide these details. Conclusion: Enhancing the transparency of APT methods and analyses in published reports will aid in reproducibility as well as future meta-analytic studies of alcohol demand that could lead to the development of best-practice recommendations for this procedure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-140
Number of pages24
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
StatePublished - Oct 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018


  • Alcohol purchase task
  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Behavioral economics
  • Demand curve
  • Systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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