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Access Type

WSU Access

Date of Award

January 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Emily R. Grekin


Individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD) are prone to heavy alcohol use and are more likely to meet criteria for an alcohol use disorder. Anger has been shown to be an antecedent to alcohol use, and high levels of intense anger among individuals with BPD may be one explanation for the high rates of alcohol problems among this population. Laboratory-induced stress has been shown to be a pre-cursor to substance use; however, very few studies have induced anger specifically, or examined interactions between experimentally-induced anger and BPD traits. The purpose of the present study was to 1) Examine whether participants randomly assigned to a condition in which they are provoked by a fictional partner would report greater alcohol craving, and purchase more alcohol on the Alcohol Purchase Task (APT) than participants assigned to a neutral condition, 2) To examine whether the presence of BPD traits would interact with condition to predict alcohol craving and purchase behavior, and 3) To examine whether state anger mediates the relationship between the degree of borderline personality symptomology and alcohol craving/purchase behavior. A secondary aim of the present study was to examine the feasibility of administrating a long and frustrating behavioral task (the Point Subtraction Paradigm, or PSAP) on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, and to compare the validity of the task when administered on MTurk to the validity when administered in the laboratory.

Results of the present study indicated that, relative to the undergraduate sample, the MTurk sample failed a similar number of attention checks, made a comparable number of presses on the PSAP, and were equally likely to believe the deception on the task. Participants assigned to the provocation condition responded more aggressively, and spent a greater amount of time trying to protect against aggressive responding from a fictional partner than participants assigned to the neutral condition. Following the task, participants assigned to the provocation condition made a greater maximum purchase on alcohol, and made the maximum alcohol purchase at a higher price. In contrast, the behavior of individuals with higher levels of BPD traits seemed to function independently of whether they were provoked during the task or exposed to a neutral condition. Specifically, higher levels of BPD traits were associated with greater pre and post task anger, more attempts to protect against aggressive responding from their partner, higher pre and post-task alcohol craving, and greater intensity of demand on the APT, regardless of their partner’s behavior. However, higher levels of BPD traits were not associated with greater reactivity (i.e., disproportionate increases in anger), and anger did not mediate the relationship between BPD traits and the desire to use alcohol. Results of the present study suggest that provocation may increase alcohol purchase behavior. However, individuals with high levels of BPD traits appear to experience persistently high levels of anger and alcohol craving relative to those with low levels of BPD traits, regardless of environmental cues.

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