Conversational Valence and Binge Drinking Relationship


Manipulation check

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First, a manipulation check was conducted in order to check if the different conditions (valence and activeness) led to the intended positive/negative and active/passive responses, respectively. For this purpose, univariate analyses of variance (ANOVAS) were conducted with valence conditions as independent and valence as dependent variables. The results revealed a statistically significant effect of valence condition on the participants’ valence F(1,129): 80.94, p=.000, (M=3.80, SD=1.41) and on the partner’s valence F(1,129): 61.09, p=.000, (M=3.93, SD=1.50). Furthermore, the results revealed a statistically significant effect of the participants’ activeness condition on the level of activeness F(1,129): 41.73, p=.000, (M=4.47, SD=1.53) and a marginally significant effect of the partners’ activeness F(1,129): 3.76, p=.055, (M=5.09, SD=1.25).

Additionally, we examined the extent to which participants followed the instructions and responded to the assigned role. For this reason, we conducted a crosstabulation check, which indicated that the 63.6% of the individuals assigned to the negative condition, perceived the conversation as negative whereas 33.3% as neither negative nor positive and 3.0% as positive. Also, 53.8% of the individuals in the positive condition perceived the conversation as positive, whereas 30.8% and 15.4% of the participants perceived the conversation as neither negative nor positive, and negative, respectively. Moreover, 52.9% of the individuals in the passive condition perceived that they have spoken passively. However, the majority (84.1%) of the individuals assigned to the active condition perceived that they have spoken as instructed.[1]

The effect of conversational valence on binge drinking determinants

To investigate H1 (i.e. whether conversational valence influenced attitude, subjective norm, perceived behavioral control, and intention towards binge drinking) four univariate Analyses of Variance (ANOVAs) were conducted with conversational valence condition as the independent variable and attitude, subjective norm, perceived behavioral control, and intention as the dependent variables. The results indicated a significant main effect of valence on attitude F(1,129): 8.53, p=.004, which means that participants with positive conversational valence about alcohol received higher binge drinking attitude (M=3.85, SD=1.32) than those with negative (M=3.20, SD=1.23). Similarly, a significant main effect of valence on perceived behavioral control F(1,129): 4.82, p=.030 was indicated, revealing that those in who were engaged in positively valence conversation had higher perceived behavioral control (M=4.48, SD=1.90) than those in negatively valence conversation (M=3.75, SD=1.93). Furthermore, a marginally significant main effect on subjective norm F(1,129): 3.25, p=.074, was revealed. This means that participants with positive conversational valence had higher subjective norm (M=3.61, SD =1.62) than those with negative (M=3.09, SD=1.70). However, a non-significant main effect on intention F(1,129): 0.08, p=.782. was found, and the binge drinking intention did not differ significantly across the two valence conditions (M=2.48, SD=1.51 and M=2.40, SD=1.70 respectively).

As it is revealed, positive conversational valence about alcohol elicits more positive binge drinking attitude, subjective norm, and perceived behavioral control compared to negative conversational valence. Moreover, more positive binge drinking intention is indicated in positively valenced conversations, although the difference is not statistically significant. Therefore, according to these results, H1 was largely supported.

Furthermore, according to previous research, four linear regression analyses with conversational valence as the predictor and attitude, subjective norm, perceived behavioral control and intention as the dependent variables were conducted in order to explore if the conversational valence predicts the binge drinking determinants. The results are presented in Table 1. A more negative conversational valence about alcohol significantly predicts more negative attitude (?=.25, p=.004) and perceived behavioral control (?=.02, p=.030) toward binge drinking. Also, a more negative conversational valence about alcohol marginally significantly predicts more negative subjective norm towards binge drinking (?=.16, p=.074). However, binge drinking intention is not significantly predicted by the conversational valence (?=.02, p=.782).

Table 1: Relationships between conversational valence and attitude, subjective norm perceived behavioral control, and intention

Binge drinking variables






Subjective norm



Perceived behavioral control






The effect of activeness and conversational valence on alcohol determinants

In order to explore the effect of activeness on attitude, subjective norm, perceived behavioral control and intentions as well as the interaction between activeness and conversational valence, four univariate ANOVAs were conducted with conversational valence and activeness as the independent variables, and attitude, subjective norm, perceived behavioral control, and intention as the dependent variables. The results revealed a non significant effect (p < 0.05 level) of activeness on binge drinking attitude F(1,127): .69, p=.409, perceived behavioral control F(1,127): .69, p=.409, subjective norm F(1,127):1.08, p=.301, and intentions F(1,127): 1.28, p=.260. Additionally, the results revealed a non-significant interaction effect between valence and activeness (attitude F(1,127): 1.44, p=.233, perceived behavioral control F(1,127): 1.38, p=.537, subjective norm F(1,127):1.00, p=.319 and intention F(1,127): .40, p=.527).

The result scores of the key variables of the study can be found in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Mean scores of binge drinking determinants across valence and activeness conditions

Concluding, our results indicate that whereas conversational valence significantly influences binge drinking determinants (attitude, perceived control, subjective norm), the level of active participation in a conversation had no significant effect on these factors.


The main objective of the study was to provide a profound understanding of the influence of interpersonal communication on alcohol determinants, by manipulating two different facets: conversational valence and level of active participation in the conversation. We first hypothesized that a more positive (negative) conversational valence about alcohol elicits more positive (negative) binge drinking attitude, subjective norm, and perceived behavioral control and increases (decreases) binge drinking intention (Hypothesis 1). An additional hypothesis was that the influence of conversational valence depends on the level of active participation in the conversation about alcohol (Hypothesis 2). The results of the study partly supported H1, but not H2. Two important conclusions can be drawn based on our results. First, when participants speak positively (negatively) about alcohol, their attitude, behavioral control, subjective norm towards binge drinking are more positive (negative). However, the intention to (refrain from) binge drinking is not significantly influenced by the conversational valence. Second, there is neither significant effect of the level of activeness in the conversation on alcohol determinants, nor a significant interaction effect of the activeness with the conversational valence.

The first main conclusion conceptually replicates previous results, which proposed that the conversational valence in alcohol-related discussions influences the binge drinking determinants (e.g. Hendriks et al. 2012). Nevertheless, the results of the current study do not indicate a significant influence of the conversational valence on the intention to binge drink. Although, the concept of conversational valence has also been addressed in previous research (e.g. Hendriks, De Bruijn, & Van den Putte, 2012; Hendriks et al., 2012), this study was the first to examine this factor by manipulating it. Thus, the discrepancy between the current study and previous research may be due to differences in research designs. As the conversational valence was experimentally manipulated in this study, it is assumed that conversational valence causally provokes changes in binge drinking predictors.

However, the fact that participants are instructed to speak in either a positive or a negative way about alcohol, may be opposed to their actual views (negative/positive) and role (passive/active) in a conversation resulting in a non significant effect of the conversation in their binge drinking intention. Therefore, although an instructed conversation may be effective in influencing attitude, subjective norm and perceived behavioural control, it is not sufficient and may take a longer time to change the participants’ intention to binge-drink. Additionally, according to previous studies (Jamison and Myers, 2008) the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) was relatively weak in explaining intention to binge-drink. Also, it was found (Armitage & Conner, 2001) that the TPB accounted for only 39% of variance in the intention to binge drink. Thus, as Gibbond, Houlihan & Gerrard, 2009) supported, the TPB cannot thoroughly define the irrational nature of health risk behaviours.

An additional finding is that participants reported a high level of perceived behavioural control (PBC) in all the four conditions and showed the largest differences between the valence and between the activeness conditions. Notably, as Norman, Bennettand Lewis (1998) supported, the control factor is the most important determinant in binge drinking. Moreover, as previous research suggested, perceived behavioural control and subjective norm may affect intention indirectly through attitude formation (Susanto & Goodwin, 2013; Chung et al., 2012; Tarkiainen & Sundqvist, 2005).

….As in other studies in the domain of binge-drinking (Johnston et al., 2003), in our research we employed single construct measures of general perceived behavioral control (we do not distinguish between self-efficacy and perceived controllability), which tap the extent to which behavioral performance is believed to be easy or difficult (Armitage & Corner, 2001). Admittedly, research revealed that only self-efficacy predicts binge-drinking intention (Norman, 2011; Normal et al., 2007). Further research distinguishing these two components of perceived behavioral control is therefore required.

We suggest one reason for the non-significant influence of perceived behavioural control on intention to binge drink

In addition, the second goal of this study was to introduce a new factor that may influence the effect of interpersonal communication about alcohol on binge drinking determinants. For this purpose, we investigated how the level of activeness in a conversation (active vs. passive) influences binge drinking predictors and how this interacts with the effect of conversational valence in conversations about alcohol. In order to investigate this we instructed participants to speak either actively or passively in positively or negatively valenced alcohol conversations. This factor has not been explicitly explored in the past, thus this research provides preliminary evidence on this topic.

Although no significant main effect of activeness on alcohol determinants was found in the analyses, positive valence and high activeness in the conversation result in the most unhealthy alcohol determinants (attitude, subjective norm, perceived behavioral control, intention), as predicted. Respectively, negative valence and high activeness result in the most healthy alcohol attitude.

Overall, despite encouraging results from the manipulation checks, the hypotheses were partly (H1) or not supported (H2). In fact, further exploration of the manipulation outcome revealed significant deviations from the instructed valence and activeness conditions, thus a great percentage of participants demonstrated either that they have not complied with the manipulation or that they unconsciously deviated from the instructions.

On the one hand, it may be possible that some participants were affected by their existed views when discussing about alcohol and resisted to the counter-attitudinal message such that they did not talk in line with the condition that they were assigned to. One the other hand, people may have perceived the valence that they have talked differently comparatively to how they did actually talk. As recent research suggested, ( Hendriks, Van de Putte & de Bruijn, 2015) perceived valence significantly influences attitudes and intention to binge drink.

Similarly, personal characteristics (talkative/ concise) of people may intervene in the way that they finally act during the discussion. In particular, as the analyses demonstrated, only 52,9 of the participants who were instructed to talk passively, perceived their role in the conversation as passive. Generally, extroverts who want to talk more, perhaps they didn’t support the instructed passive role hence the difference between the two conditions hasn’t influenced significantly the alcohol determinants itself, nor interacted with the valence condition to …

Markedly, there wasn’t an effective way to take into consideration the partners’ evaluations during the main analyses, rendering some items partly ineffective to objectively evaluate the content of conversations about alcohol. Nonetheless, according to the shared reality theory (Hardin & Higgins, 1996), there is an interdependence between dyad partners’ responses on the outcomes of interest that may also influence the attitude, subjective norm, perceived behavioural control and intention toward binge drinking. As this theory suggests, through the process of interpersonal communication, discoursers come to a shared understanding of the world, mutually reinforcing one another’s experience.

Nevertheless, in real –life settings, these determinants may influence how negatively or positively people talk about alcohol-related topics, thus conversational valence and activeness can influence the determinants of binge drinking behavior, and these binge drinking determinants may inversely influence whether and how positively/negatively or actively/passively people discuss this issue.


The present findings have important implications for understanding binge-drinking and developing health interventions.

we found support for the effect of conversational valence on attitudes, subjective norm and perceived behavioural control. Therefore, in future health campaigns, targeted in creating more negative attitudes, subjective norm and perceived behavioural control (but not intention) to binge drink, an effective strategy to use would be to stimulate people to discuss negatively about alcohol.

To change attitudes towards binge drinking, interventions should highlight the negative consequences associated with binge drinking and challenge the perceived positive consequences of binge drinking. Alternatively

But if it was the change of intention/behavior= another campaign planning would be needed


This study adds to a growing body of research examining factors predicting binge drinking among student populations, however, there is a number of methodological issues that should be considered when interpreting the results. First, binge drinking attitudes, subjective norm and PBC were measured using self-reports, which are vulnerable to cognitive (e.g., Luchins, 1957), affective (e.g., Bower, 1992) and self-presentational (e.g., Paulhus, 2002) biases. Armitage and Conner (2001) reported that the TPB provides stronger predictions of self-report behaviors than observed behaviors. Therefore employing alternative observational techniques (e.g. nominated peers) may be useful in revealing the qualities of the drinking environment that directly influence binge drinking (Van de Goor et al.,1990) although these also have their own limitations (Gill, 2002)

Another limitation is as other studies using the TPB to understand student binge drinking behavior, they have not examined beliefs about drinking alcohol. Given that according to Ajzen (1991), beliefs are the ultimate psychological determinants of behavior one needs to alter those beliefs (Ajzen, 2007) in order to bring about change in behaviour, or at least intentions to perform a behaviour, Thus, to design interventions to alter intentions to binge drink in students, one needs to know not only what are the salient beliefs regarding this behaviour in this population, but also which beliefs are associated with intentions and behaviour (Sutton, 2002; Sutton, 2010).

-Manipulation of activeness

Our sample included English-speaking students with different cultures, thus different perception of (binge) drinking. Interestingly, research has shown that the society’s culture of alcohol determines how much people drink in that community (Heath, 1982).Communities with a culture of drinking have much higher rates of binge drinking, while communities where drinking is disapproved have lower binge drinking rates


Considering the prevalence of binge drinking as well as the damaging consequences especially in young people we conducted this research in the context of alcohol in student populations.

This research highlights the need to broaden the context in which conversations about alcohol are examined. More effective measurement tools in research about alcohol, coupled with improvements in alcohol prevention, will hopefully lead to a downward trend of alcohol use among students and the negative consequences of binge drinking .

Therefore, when participants were instructed to discuss about alcohol in either positive or negative aspect, their attitude, subjective norm and behavioral control were influenced by the conversational content whereas intention to refrain from binge drinking was not significantly affected by the conversation

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