Embodied and Embedded Approaches for Preventing Alcohol Misuse.

Activity: Academic Talks or PresentationsConference Presentation


Alcohol misuse has a substantial impact on the wider public health. Behaviour theories that typically underlie health promotion and prevention, view intentions as the best predictor of behaviour. However, these theories have been found to be poor predictors of behaviour. An embodied, embedded approach to cognition (EEC) instead explains behaviour in terms of the transactions that occur between organisms and their environment, as suggested by James Gibson’s affordance concept. Gibson’s ecological approach to perception suggests humans directly perceive the functions that the environment and objects within it afford for action. Observing and grouping affordances illustrates the functional meaning an environment has for an individual and studying them reveals predictable social action. This research programme proposes that contemporary ideas about Gibson’s affordances and EEC can be used to investigate adult drinking behaviour in context, with a view to understanding and preventing alcohol misuse.


During the first stage of research, the investigator observed the functional characteristics of different UK licensed premises. These observations were categorised using a functional framework for classifying and coding environmental observations of affordances. This highlighted contextual and environmental features that appeared to be related to drinking behaviour, including the availability of glass sizes, furniture, alcohol promotions and opportunities for action other than drinking, including those provided by others. During the second stage of research, the researcher investigated the subjective meaning attributed to these environments by individuals who engage in drinking behaviours, using a photo-elicitation interview approach. This highlighted aspects that individuals believed were meaningful to their drinking behaviour and to that of others. Statements from these interviews are now being used to inform a Q-Methodology study which will focus on the meaning which exists at the interplay of a drinker’s body and their drinking environments. The findings of these studies will be combined to investigate whether affordances prevalent in certain environments can be primed. This may provide a deeper insight into the principles of alcohol advertising and environmental features with a view to prevent risky drinking behaviours.



PeriodJul 2012
Event titleBuilding Networks in Addiction Studies (BNAS) and Society for the Study of Addiction (SSA) Conference
Event typeConference
Degree of RecognitionInternational