Using behavioral economic variables to predict future alcohol use in a crowdsourced sample

Justin C. Strickland, Joseph L. Alcorn, William W. Stoops

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Background: Theoretical perspectives at the intersection of behavioral economics and operant theory have resulted in numerous advances for addiction science. Three mechanisms (i.e. behavioral economic demand [consumption-price relationships], delay discounting [reinforcer devaluation with delay], and proportionate alcohol-related reinforcement [relative reinforcement attributable to alcohol]) are proposed to contribute to problematic alcohol use. Limited research has evaluated the unique contribution of these mechanisms for predicting future alcohol consumption. Aim: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the predictive relationship between these mechanisms and self-reported alcohol use frequency, quantity, and severity. Methods: Participants (n=223) sampled from the crowdsourcing website Amazon Mechanical Turk completed a survey containing behavioral economic measures. Weekly reports of daily alcohol use were then collected for 18 weeks. Unadjusted and adjusted models determined the association between behavioral economic variables and alcohol use. Results/outcomes: Behavioral economic measures were associated with alcohol and soda use at baseline in a stimulus-selective manner (e.g. alcohol demand associated with alcohol, but not soda, variables). Predictive models adjusted for Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test scores indicated that increased proportionate alcohol-related reinforcement and behavioral economic demand were uniquely and incrementally associated with frequency (e.g. adjusted odds ratio (AOR)=5.54 for proportionate alcohol-related reinforcement, p<0.05) and quantity-severity measures (e.g. AOR=7.58 for alcohol demand intensity, p<0.001), respectively. Test-retest reliability was generally acceptable (rxx=0.42–0.76) with the exception of proportionate alcohol-related reinforcement (rxx=0.29). Conclusion/interpretation: These findings indicate the unique, predictive, and incremental validity of behavioral economic measures for evaluating future alcohol consumption, supporting their continued use in addiction science research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)779-790
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Psychopharmacology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship and/or publication of this article: The authors gratefully acknowledge support from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (Grant T32DA035200), National Science Foundation (Grant 1247392), Pilot Funds from the University of Kentucky Center on Drug and Alcohol Research, and Professional Development Funds from the University of Kentucky. These funding agencies had no role in study design, data collection or analysis, or preparation and submission of the manuscript. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Science Foundation, or University of Kentucky.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2019.


  • Demand
  • Mechanical Turk
  • R-ratio
  • discounting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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