Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD)

Degree Level



Psychological Science


Lindsay S. Ham

Committee Member

Matthew Feldner

Second Committee Member

Ellen Leen-Feldner


Alcohol, Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), Anxiety, coping strategies, Self-Regulation, young adults


This study sought to utilize motivational and self-regulatory processes, specifically the principle of emotional transfer (PET), to elucidate mechanisms underlying the transition from casual alcohol use to dependence in young adults with elevated anxiety. Utilizing a script-driven imagery procedure, the proposed study examined the effects of manipulated state anxiety on 1) the amount, content, and commitment to freely generated anxiety reduction strategies, and 2) the level of craving for alcohol. Young adult college students (N = 69; ages 18-24; 76.8% women) were randomly assigned to either the high (n = 35) or low (n = 34) anxiety condition. After script presentation, participants responded to a script-related prompt eliciting generation of anxiety regulation strategies, rated their commitment to those strategies, and reported their current level of alcohol craving. Analyses revealed no significant difference between the conditions on the quantity of strategies generated, level of alcohol craving, or number of participants generating alcohol use as a strategy. However, participants in the high anxiety condition reported significantly greater commitment to the strategies generated than the low anxiety condition. While anxiety increased in both conditions in response to the script, it did not increase significantly more in the high anxiety condition. The two conditions were collapsed and hierarchical linear regressions were run to assess whether post-induction anxiety predicted the outcome variables, while controlling for covariates. Greater past-year alcohol use and problems – not anxiety – predicted generation of significantly fewer strategies and higher alcohol craving. Findings of this study suggest partial support for the PET and highlight the need for alternative approaches to inducing and assessing the potential effects of anxiety on self-regulatory processes, particularly for those most at risk for alcohol use problems.