An examination of the effect of alcohol on self-discrepancy and self-awareness in young women

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Stephen A. Maisto


Alcohol, Self-discrepancy, Self-awareness, Women, Bulimia

Subject Categories

Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Research has repeatedly verified high co-prevalence rates for bulimia and alcohol abuse in both clinical and sub-clinical populations. An integration of two heuristics of the effects of alcohol with knowledge on relevant bulimic symptomatology is presented as the basis of this investigation. The self-inflation component of Steele and Josephs' myopia model has been evaluated in research using a written measure of self-discrepancy, and results have indicated that alcohol consumption results in decreased self-discrepancy. Research on Hull's self-awareness model using male participants also has largely found that alcohol decreases self-awareness among highly self-conscious individuals. Body size discrepancy and high self awareness are believed to be core features of bulimia. Therefore, evidence indicating that alcohol decreases body discrepancy and self-awareness might clarify the high rates of alcohol use in this population. A placebo-control design was used to examine the effect of alcohol on changes in body size discrepancy and self-awareness among female Syracuse University students ( N = 57). Body size discrepancy was assessed before and after beverage consumption using a computerized Body Image Testing System (BITS). Estimates of body self-awareness and global self-awareness were assessed before and after beverage consumption using the BITS and a sentence completion task. It was hypothesized that participants who received alcohol would demonstrate a significantly greater decrease in body size discrepancy and self awareness than participants who did not receive alcohol. Moreover, it was hypothesized that participants with higher Bulimia Test (BULIT) scores would show the greatest decreases in body size discrepancy and self-awareness following alcohol consumption. Correlational analyses showed BULIT scores to be significantly positively associated with larger baseline body size discrepancy, higher ratings of the importance of body size in determining one's self-concept, and higher levels of private self-consciousness. However, regression analyses did not find a significant main effect of BULIT score, main effect of beverage condition, or interaction between BULIT score and beverage condition in predicting change in body size discrepancy or self-awareness. Implications of the findings, study limitations, and avenues for future research are discussed.