BACKGROUND: We examined the influence of interindividual differences in alcohol use on the intraindividual associations of drinking occurrence with interpersonal behaviors, affect, and perceptions of others during naturally occurring social interactions.
METHODS: For 14 consecutive days, 219 psychology freshmen (55% female; Mage = 20.7 years, SD = 2.18) recorded their behaviors, affect, and perceptions in social interactions soon after an interpersonal event occurred. Interpersonal behaviors and perceptions were assessed in terms of dominance-submissiveness and agreeableness-quarrelsomeness. Participants also reported the number of alcoholic drinks consumed within 3 hours of each interaction. We considered the intraindividual associations of (i) having a drinking episode and (ii) the number of drinks during an episode with behaviors, affect, and perceptions and examined interindividual differences in drinking frequency and intensity during social interactions as potential moderators of these associations.
RESULTS: Social drinking frequency and intensity moderated the associations between drinking episode and behaviors, affect, and perceptions in social interactions. During a drinking episode, more frequent social drinkers perceived others as more dominant than less frequent social drinkers. During a drinking episode in which more alcohol was consumed than usual, more frequent social drinkers also reported behaving more dominantly and experiencing less pleasant affect.
CONCLUSIONS: As more frequent social drinkers had different interpersonal responses to drinking than less frequent social drinkers, including when they had consumed larger amounts of alcohol than usual, our results suggest a differential susceptibility to the effects of alcohol during naturally occurring social interactions among drinkers with varying drinking frequency.