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The P300 as an electrophysiological probe of alcohol expectancy.


Language-based measures indicate that alcohol expectancies influence alcohol consumption. To relate these measures to brain actions that precede verbal output, the P300 component of the Event-related potentials (ERPs) was used to detect violations of individually held alcohol expectancies. As predicted, P300 amplitude elicited by negative alcohol expectancy stimuli was positively correlated with endorsement of positive/arousing alcohol expectancies on the language-based measures, such that the higher an individual's positive/arousing expectancies, the larger was the P300 elicited by negative alcohol expectancy stimuli. These results demonstrated concordance between language-based measures of alcohol expectancies and electrophysiological probes of expectancy. While it remains unknown whether these expectancy processes are integral to decision pathways that influence consumption, these findings suggest that such processing can occur very quickly outside of conscious deliberation.