Background: While both theory and empirical findings have supported impaired self-control as a crucial factor in understanding problem drinking, little is known about the relationship of self-control and drinking in naturalistic settings. The present study uses Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) to examine the predictive relationships between impaired subjective self-control, craving and alcohol use in everyday life. Methods: A sample of 172 regular drinkers responded on their smartphone to three random prompts each day for seven days in which amount of perceived self-control and craving were measured with self-report. In the meantime, participants were instructed to initiate an EMA report when they started drinking alcohol. Results: Findings supported the hypotheses that impaired self-control and higher craving levels were prospectively related to the likelihood that people will drink. That is, on random assessments that preceded drinking (i.e., were within two hours of drinking), perceived self-control was lower and craving was higher compared to random assessments that were not followed by drinking. Additionally, during drink consumption, impaired self-control and craving were associated with a higher amount of expected alcohol consumption. Findings further indicated that subjective self-control acted as a moderator of the relationship between craving and alcohol consumption during drinking occasions. Conclusions: By using a smartphone mobile application, this study showed that impaired subjective self-control and craving are prospectively related to alcohol use in the real-world. Furthermore, findings are consistent with theories of addiction that substance use might be associated with the interplay of control processes and increased motivation.
- Ecological momentary assessment
- Subjective control