Personality and Drinking Motives Relationship

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Evaluating the connection between personality variables and drinking motives towards predicting drinking behavior is critical towards designing intervention measures. Alcohol use has been vastly examined from a biopsychosocial perspective, in conjunction with variables such as drinking motives and personality aspects. Drinking motives serve as the primary predictor of alcohol use, and there is considerable literature evaluating this relationship. Drinking for social and enhancement reasons is associated with moderate alcohol use. However, drinking for conformity and coping motives is correlated with high alcohol use and misuse. Additionally, personality traits with regards to neuroticism, extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness to experience have been found to predispose susceptibilities to alcohol use. High alcohol use is associated with low agreeableness, high neuroticism, extraversion, and low conscientiousness personality profile. It is essential to consider that although personality traits and drinking motives influence alcohol use independently, they can also impact one another. In this case, alcohol use mediated by coping and conforming motives is characterized by low agreeableness, high neuroticism, high extraversion, and negative perception of self, personality traits.

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Alcohol use disorders are regarded to be among the most prevalent and devastating mental conditions. According to the World Health Organization (2020), alcohol is considered a psychoactive and toxic substance with the capability of inducing dependence. The consumption of alcohol is responsible for over 3 million deaths each year, including poor health and disabilities among a million others. Thus, there is a need to address alcohol use and abuse factors leading to health and social problems. The causes of alcohol misuse are not well understood, with several and often conflicting factors at play (Ertl, Preuße, & Neuner, 2018). For example, there are genetic factors that influence the likelihood of developing a drinking problem. In one particular study, researchers found that certain genes play a role in predisposition to alcohol misuse. However, they found that no gene or combination of genes could predict alcoholism. A possible explanation for these limitations is that many different causal pathways are involved in the development of alcohol misuse. According to Wicki et al. (2017), drinking motives are particularly essential in determining the driving factors for consumption. This paper aims to examine drinking motives and personality traits distinctly and how they affect one another.

Drinking Motives

Numerous studies have explored the factors contributing to alcohol consumption and maintenance. An earlier version is the self-medication hypothesis highlighting how individuals can use substances to alleviate suffering (Ibáñez et al., 2015). Hence, when self-medication is efficacious, alcohol consumption is negatively reinforced. Wikler, Solomon’s opponent-process model, and the tension-reduction theory further reinforced the early model of drug motivation in their studies (Ibáñez et al., 2015). The affective processing model, which is a newer perspective deriving some features from the earlier ones, asserted that negative emotions primarily drive conscious and unconscious motives. (Ibáñez et al., 2015). In low levels of negative affect, consumption is usually thoughtless. On the other hand, moderate levels of controlled consumption can be achieved. It also suggests that consumption is instigated by negative affect or withdrawal and stressful events or internal states resultant of negative affect.

The motivational model of alcohol use developed by Cox and Klinger recognizes two dimensions, which are the valence (positive or negative reinforcement motives) and source (internal or external) (Ibáñez et al., 2015). Four distinct categories of drinking motives are generated from the dimensions, and they comprise coping (internally generated and acts as negative reinforcement, e.g., drinking to forget about stressors), enhancement (internally generated and acts as a positive reinforcement motive, e.g., drinking for excitement), social (externally generated and comprises positive reinforcement motives, e.g., drinking for celebrations) and conformity (externally developed and constitutes negative reinforcement motives, e.g., consuming to fit in). Drinkers can fall into either one or more categories. One can pursue the internally generated reward of improved performance or the externally generated reward of positive social interactions. Social motives are linked to moderate alcohol use, while excessive drinking and alcohol use disorders are linked with internally generated negative reinforcement reasons.

Studies have indicated that social and enhancement motives are associated with non-problematic consumption (Adan, Forero, & Navarro, 2017). In contrast, aversive or negative consequences (conformity and coping) predict problematic alcohol use. Therefore, they confirmed that non-alcoholic controls were more likely to drink for social and enhancement than coping and conformity. Conversely, alcoholics may be more likely to drink for internal motives (e.g., to enjoy tasting their favorite beverage); they are also more likely to drink for external reasons (e.g., to have a good time with friends). This suggests that heavy drinking is directly linked to enhancement motives. Contrastingly, drinking problems are linked to conformity motives, but heavy drinking is linked to the opposite tendency.

Personality Traits and Alcohol Use

Aside from drinking motives, another essential factor that influences alcohol intake is personality. The Five-Factor Model (FFM) is one of the most widely used personality models. It uses five principle traits to classify personality, and they include Neuroticism (N), Extraversion (E), Openness (O), Agreeableness (A), and Conscientiousness (C). In several studies, high alcohol intake is associated with low agreeableness, high neuroticism, and low conscientiousness personality profile (Hawn et al., 2018; Ibáñez et al., 2015). Furthermore, extraversion is most strongly associated with alcohol use among adolescents. From a bio-dispositional standpoint, personality traits are defined as distal and non-specific variables affecting drinking, and this occurs through the influence of proximal and specific variables like alcohol expectancies. These expectancies refer to beliefs concerning the positive (“If I drink alcohol, I will be friendlier”) and negative (“If I drink alcohol, I will have a hangover”) consequences that the effects of the substance at the behavioral, emotional, and motivational spheres (Ibáñez et al., 2015). In retrospect, positive alcohol expectancies have been linked with increased alcohol intake. Even though alcohol expectancies stem from direct and indirect experiences with alcohol, it is presumed that personality traits help shape such experiences.

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Furthermore, concerning binge drinking, it has been found out that high extraversion is correlated with it. It is also associated with a higher incidence of binge drinking and more adverse consequences. On the other hand, conscientiousness negatively correlates with impulsivity which is common among binge drinkers (Upadhya, 2018). A lower level of self-oriented perfectionism, which is a type of hyper-consciousness, is reflected in the tendency to binge drink. This is because the personality trait is linked with less pro-social and more health-promoting behavior consisting of diet and lifestyles. Correspondingly, high openness has been associated with binge drinking in women. Last but certainly not least, neuroticism is one of the best indicators of personality that identifies binge drinkers, moderate drinkers, and non-drinkers. It is essential to note that neuroticism is a personality trait that has the strongest correlation to various forms of psychopathology. (Susan et al., 2017). This might insinuate that higher motional instability promotes alcohol consumption.

Association between Personality Traits and Drinking Motives

Drinking motives are predicted to have a direct relationship with personality traits, but they also influence alcohol intake. Empirical evidence suggests the presence of a strong association between neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness, and drinking behavior (Upadhya, 2018). In addition, an extensive body of research suggests that a positive correlation exists between enhancement motivation and extraversion. According to the Five-Factor Model, extraversion is marked by sociability, positive emotions, and confidence in social situations. Therefore, upon drawing the comparison between personality traits and drinking motives, more extroverted drinkers are more predisposed towards the enhancement pathway with positive effects, such as social and enhancement motives (Susan et al., 2017; Upadhya, 2018; Wicki et al., 2017). Furthermore, problematic drinking issues are associated with negative reinforcing drinking motives. Previous research suggests that internal motives (coping and enhancement) are more important than external motives (social and conformity) in explaining drinking behavior (Wicki et al., 2017). The difference between the two is that based on the fact that internal drinking motives are more significantly interconnected with affective states.

Eysenck’s theory of personality is an important model in personality psychology that Hans J. Eysenck developed. It states that personality is influenced by the interaction between two biological systems: negative and positive reinforcement. (Susan et al., 2017). For instance, extroverts react strongly to positive reinforcement triggers that instigate enhancement-motivated alcohol use. On the contrary, neurotic people who are more susceptible to emotional states drink alcohol to deal with stressors or psychopathological symptoms. For instance, when it comes to drinking for enhancement, the individuals are associated with a personality profile of impulsivity, extraversion, and aggressiveness. This group of people is more likely to seek to feel drunk, including other extreme sensations actively. When it comes to personality traits and drinking to cope, it has been determined that individuals with coping motives have low-level agreeableness, high levels of neuroticism, and negative perception of self. These drinkers use alcohol to cope with problems in life, especially those related to anxiety and depression. Furthermore, they are more likely to be female, drink more heavily, and experience more alcohol-related issues than those who drink for other reasons.


There is a relationship between personality traits, drinking motives, and alcohol use. As a result, knowing the association between the variables is essential for designing interventions to reduce harmful drinking. When it comes to drinking motives, non-drinkers are more likely to drink for enjoyment than coping and conformity. Nevertheless, amid positive reinforcement motives, alcoholics are more likely to drink for internally-driven motivations (enhancement) as compared to the externally generated motivations (social). On the other hand, high alcohol intake is associated with low agreeableness, high neuroticism, extraversion, and low conscientiousness personality profile in terms of personality traits. Finally, when it comes to the intersection between drinking motives and personality traits, heavy drinking which encompasses impulsivity, extraversion, aggressiveness, low-level agreeableness, high neuroticism levels, and negative perception of oneself.

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Adan, A., Forero, D. A., & Navarro, J. F. (2017). Personality traits related to binge drinking: A systematic review. Frontiers in psychiatry, 8, 134.

Ertl, V., Preuße, M., & Neuner, F. (2018). Are drinking motives universal? Characteristics of motive types in alcohol-dependent men from two diverse populations. Frontiers in psychiatry, 9, 38.

Hawn, S. E., Kurtz, E. D., Brown, E., Brown, R. C., Berenz, E. C., McDonald, S., Pickett, T., Kmett Danielson, C., & Amstadter, A. (2018). A cluster-analytic approach to determining drinking motives and personality typologies: Trauma group differences and respective relations to PTSD and problematic alcohol use. Journal of the Society of Psychologists in Addictive Behaviors, 32(5), 528–539.

Ibáñez, M.I., Camacho, L., Mezquita, L., Villa, H., Moya-Higueras, J., & Ortet, G. (2015). Alcohol expectancies mediate and moderate the associations between big five personality traits and adolescent alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems. Frontiers in Psychology, 6(1838), 1-8.

Susan, M. R., Marlene, O., Maaria I. K., Mary M. V., Kayle S. S. (2017). Associations between personality and drinking motives among abstinent adult alcoholic men and women. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 52(4), 496-505.

Upadhya, A. (2018). Personality and drinking motives: Delving into the alcohol consumption of young adults. Journal of Psychology and Brain Studies, 2(12), 1-5.

Wicki, M. et al. (2017). Different drinking motives, different adverse consequences? Evidence among adolescents from 10 European countries. Drug and Alcohol Review, 36, 731–741. Web.

World Health Organization. (2020). Alcohol.

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PsychologyWriting. "Personality and Drinking Motives Relationship." June 20, 2022.