Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Mark T. Fillmore

Second Advisor

Dr. Richard Milich


Alcohol-impaired driving is a major cause of motor vehicle accident and death in the United States. People who are arrested for DUI (Driving under the Influence) are at high risk to reoffend; approximately one in three of these individuals will commit another DUI offense in the three years following their first conviction (Nochajski & Stasiewicz, 2006). This high risk for recidivism in these individuals suggests that cognitive characteristics may contribute to a pattern of pathological decision making leading to impaired driving. Indeed, individuals with a history of DUI report higher rates of impulsiveness and behavioral dysregulation compared to their nonoffending peers. Relatively little research, however, has used laboratory methods to identify the specific behavioral characteristics, such as poor inhibitory control or heightened sensitivity to immediate reward, which may differentiate DUI offenders from nonoffenders. Further, little is known about how individuals with a history of DUI respond following an acute dose of alcohol. Study 1 examined impulsivity in 20 adults with a recent DUI conviction and 20 adults with no history of DUI using self-report and behavioral measures of impulsivity. This study also used a novel decision-making paradigm to examine how different levels of risk and reward influenced the decision to drive after drinking in both groups. Results of this study found that DUI offenders did not differ from controls in their performance on behavioral measures of impulsivity. They did, however, report higher levels of impulsivity and demonstrated a greater willingness to tolerate higher levels of risk for more modest rewards. Study 2 examined the acute effects of alcohol and expectancy manipulation on driving performance and decision making in the same group of participants. Neither alcohol nor expectancy manipulation exerted a systematic effect on decision making in either group. Alcohol impaired driving performance equally in both groups, but the DUI group perceived themselves as less impaired by alcohol. Expectancy manipulation eliminated this group difference in perceived driving ability. Taken together, these findings identify processes that risk of impaired driving in DUI offenders. They may perceive themselves as less impaired by alcohol, leading to risky decision making when drinking. Expectancy manipulation may be a viable method of reducing risky decision making in DUI offenders.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)