In verbis, vinum? Relating themes in an open-ended writing task to alcohol behaviors

Robert D. Lowe, Derek Heim, Cindy K. Chung, John C. Duffy, John B. Davies, James W. Pennebaker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Alcohol’s function as a regulator of emotions has long been denoted in figures of speech, most famously ‘in vino, veritas’ (in wine, truth). In contrast, we ask whether an individual’s self-reported alcohol consumption and related attitudes can be correlated with the words they use to write about alcohol. Participants completed an open-ended essay as part of a survey on alcohol attitudes and behaviors. We used a computerized technique, the Meaning Extraction Method, to summarize the responses into thematic tropes, and correlated these with quantitative measurements of demographics, attitudes and behaviors. Participants were recruited using a random population postal survey in the UK (n = 1001). Principal components analysis identified regular co-occurring words, to locate themes in the responses. Seven themes were identified that corresponded to both negative and positive aspects of alcohol consumption ranging from concern for the influence of alcohol on others (e.g., children and family) to participants’ own enjoyment of alcohol (e.g., social drinking). Small but significant correlations suggested a relationship between the essay responses and individual consumption patterns and attitudes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8-13
Early online date16 Apr 2013
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2013


  • Alcohol consumption
  • Meaning Extraction Method
  • Survey methodology
  • Language
  • Drinking cultures


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