Denial of alcohol abuse and belief in a disease versus a social learning model of etiology and treatment
Two models of alcohol abuse, the disease model and the social learning model, have emerged in recent years as the most popular of the many presented in the literature. These models have led to controversies and competing ways of thinking and dealing with alcohol- related problems. The effects of these models on one aspect of alcohol use and abuse was the subject of this thesis, i.e., the relationships between beliefs about alcohol that follow from these models and the acknowledgment versus denial of alcohol-related problems. The purpose of the current study was to determine the extent to which the consistency versus inconsistency of subjects' pre-existing beliefs with the information about alcohol abuse that was presented to them was associated with denial of alcohol-related problems. Fifty-four male subjects were presented with information about alcohol abuse that described either a disease or social learning model. One-half of the subjects were presented with information that was consistent with their prior beliefs about alcohol abuse, and the other half with information inconsistent with their beliefs. The main hypothesis was that subjects who were presented with information about the causes and treatment of alcohol abuse that was inconsistent with their pre-existing beliefs would indicate greater levels of denial of alcohol-related problems than subjects presented with information that was consistent with their pre-existing beliefs. The results did not support this prediction. Another aspect of the current research involved a possible relationship between locus of control and denial. The literature suggests that the disease model attributes less volitional control of drinking behavior by alcohol abusers than the social learning model. Consequently, the current study hypothesized that subjects who were presented with a model of alcohol abuse that was inconsistent with their pre-existing beliefs about locus of control with respect to alcohol use would be more likely to experience psychological discomfort as a result of cognitive dissonance, and would be more likely to rely on denial to ease this discomfort, than subjects who were presented with a model that was consistent with their pre-existing beliefs. The data failed to support this hypothesis. Several possible explanations which may account for the failure of the current study to support the proposed hypotheses are discussed.