Date Approved


Embargo Period


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




College of Science & Mathematics


Bethany Raiff, Ph.D.

Committee Member 1

Chelsie Young, Ph.D.

Committee Member 2

Steven Brunwasser, Ph.D.

Committee Member 3

Mikhail Koffarnus, Ph.D.


COVID-19, coping strategies, alcohol use, reinforcement pathology




Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


The COVID-19 pandemic is the largest global public health challenge of this century. Concerns were raised that the rapid changes associated with daily life during the initial months of the pandemic would increase depression and alcohol use. However, changes in population-level alcohol use have been mixed. Behavioral economic theories of addiction, such as the Reinforcer Pathology (RP) model, have been proposed as well suited to identify individuals, and inform interventions, to address these concerns. However, no quantitative research has validated this claim in a sample recruited during the pandemic. The current study extended upon existing research by examining patterns of RP measures in predicting alcohol use and related outcomes from a sample (n=788) recruited from social media websites during June and July 2020. Latent profile analysis revealed that a three-profile solution provided the best fit to the data, with participants from the profile best resembling the theorized RP characteristics of high demand and delay discounting showing significantly greater alcohol consumption, alcohol use disorder symptoms, alcohol-related problems, and symptoms of alcohol use disorder than those in the other two classes. These results lend support to the RP model of addiction and potentially the use of assessment and intervention approaches based on RP principles in a context where there is restricted access to reinforcers, social and otherwise

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