Same wording, distinct concepts? Testing differences between expectancies and motives in a mediation model of alcohol outcomes. Academic Article uri icon


  • Per definition, alcohol expectancies (after alcohol I expect X), and drinking motives (I drink to achieve X) are conceptually distinct constructs. Theorists have argued that motives mediate the association between expectancies and drinking outcomes. Yet, given the use of different instruments, do these constructs remain distinct when assessment items are matched? The present study tested to what extent motives mediated the link between expectancies and alcohol outcomes when identical items were used, first as expectancies and then as motives. A linear structural equation model was estimated based on a national representative sample of 5,779 alcohol-using students in Switzerland (mean age = 15.2 years). The results showed that expectancies explained up to 38% of the variance in motives. Together with motives, they explained up to 48% of the variance in alcohol outcomes (volume, 5+ drinking, and problems). In 10 of 12 outcomes, there was a significant mediated effect that was often higher than the direct expectancy effect. For coping, the expectancy effect was close to zero, indicating the strongest form of mediation. In only one case (conformity and 5+ drinking), there was a direct expectancy effect but no mediation. To conclude, the study demonstrates that motives are distinct from expectancies even when identical items are used. Motives are more proximally related to different alcohol outcomes, often mediating the effects of expectancies. Consequently, the effectiveness of interventions, particularly those aimed at coping drinkers, should be improved through a shift in focus from expectancies to drinking motives.

publication date

  • October 1, 2010