Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Psychology


Clinical Psychology

Content Description

1 online resource (iv, 100 pages) : illustrations.

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Mitch Earleywine

Committee Members

Drew Anderson, Sharon Danoff-Burg


college students, expectancy challenge, expectancy effects, placebo effects, prescription stimulant misuse, prevention, Expectation (Psychology), Medication abuse, College students, Stimulants, Placebos (Medicine), Clinical psychology

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology


Misuse of prescription stimulant medication such as methylphenidate (MPH) has increased among college students over the past several years. Common motivations for misuse include enhancements in cognitive function and subjective arousal. Researchers have recently cited a need to better understand and develop treatments for this behavior. Expectancy effects, which impact initiation and maintenance of substance use, may also be implicated in one's decision to engage in prescription stimulant misuse. This study first examined whether subjective mood and cognitive performance could be elevated solely by one's expectation to receive MPH. Additionally, this study examined the efficacy of an expectancy challenge in decreasing the likelihood of prescription stimulant misuse over a 6-month follow-up period and in reducing positive expectancy effects. Finally, this research tested a model of prescription stimulant misuse whereby positive expectancy effects mediate the relationship between risk factors and misuse. This research demonstrated that among prescription stimulant-naïve college students, subjective arousal, but not cognitive performance, is enhanced when expecting to receive MPH. However, the expectancy challenge was not effective in reducing the likelihood of misuse or in maintaining decreases in positive expectancy effects over the 6-month follow-up, though cognitive enhancement expectancies were weakened immediately following the intervention. Furthermore, the mediational model of nonmedical stimulant use was not significant. This is the first research to experimentally examine expectancy effects for prescription stimulants, and the first attempt to develop a prevention intervention for this behavior. Results suggest that prescription stimulant expectations do alter subjective mood and that these expectancies can be altered themselves.