In Search of: Finding Positive Information in Primarily Negative Literature

In Search of on APA PsycNET: We look for positive information in a primarily negative literature by searching for research on the beneficial effect of moderate drinking.


For many years researchers have focused on the pathological effects of alcohol abuse. However, in recent years, there have also been studies pointing to potential beneficial effects of light to moderate alcohol consumption for a range of issues ranging from cognitive decline, to heart health, to stress reduction.

Separating the positive from the negative information in the databases can be challenging. Two possible ways to do it are to either specifically focus on positive terminology to find information or to create a search that removes the negative information.

Let's design a search that does the first and focuses on terminology positively related to our search to tease out empirical information in the PsycINFO® database that relates to the benefits of alcohol consumption.

Build Your Search

In APA PsycNET®, open the Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms® tab to look for relevant terms:

Term Finder Screen Shot

A search with the term "alcohol" in the term contains mode shows 33 results. However, many of those terms (e.g., acute alcoholic intoxication, alcohol abuse, alcoholism) index specific negative outcomes of alcohol use. Other terms, such as Alcoholic Beverages, are neutral, as are its narrower terms that list types of alcohol. Alcohol Drinking Patterns is also selected and the selected terms are ORed together.

Thesaurus Screen Shot

We can focus our search specifically on moderate alcohol consumption by stipulating that the study must have included Low, Light, or Moderate consumption. And a simple way to structure the search to look for positive information is to literally include a keyword search looking for positive findings.

Search Limits Screen Shot

A search run now shows 46 results that do appear at a glance to be relevant. However, our results have not been limited to empirical findings. To do that, we limit the search by Methodology, to Empirical Study.

Methodology Limit Screen Shot

Some Selected References

  • Burger, M., Brönstrup, A., & Pietrzik, K. (2004). Derivation of tolerable upper alcohol intake levels in Germany: A systematic review of risks and benefits of moderate alcohol consumption. Preventive Medicine: An International Journal Devoted to Practice and Theory, 39, 111–127. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2003.11.011
  • Hassan, L. M., & Shiu, E. M. K. (2007). Gender differences in low-risk single-occasion drinking: An application of the theory of planned behaviour. International Journal of Consumer Studies, 31, 317–325. doi: 10.1111/j.1470-6431.2006.00555.x
  • Mondaini, N., Cai, T., Gontero, P., Gavazzi, A., Lombardi, G., Boddi, V., & Bartoletti, R. (2009). Regular moderate intake of red wine is linked to a better women's sexual health. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 6, 2772–2777. doi: 10.1111/j.1743- 6109.2009.01393.x
  • Orford, J., Krishnan, M., Balaam, M., Everitt, M., & Van Der Graaf, K. (2004). University student drinking: The role of motivational and social factors. Drugs: Education, Prevention & Policy, 11, 407-421. doi: 10.108 0/09687630310001657944
  • Reid, M. C., Van Ness, P. H., Hawkins, K. A., Towle, V., Concato, J., & Guo, Z. (2006). Light to moderate alcohol consumption is associated with better cognitive function among older male veterans receiving primary care. Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry and Neurology, 19, 98–105. doi: 10.1177/08919887062 86513
  • Sierksma, A., Sarkola, T., Eriksson, C. J. P., van der Gaag, M. S., Grobbee, D. E., & Hendriks, H. F. J. (2004). Effect of moderate alcohol consumption on plasma dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, testosterone, and estradiol levels in middle-aged men and postmenopausal women: A diet-controlled intervention study. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 28, 780–785. doi: 10.1097/01. ALC.0000125356.70824.81
  • Stott, D. J., Falconer, A., Kerr, G. D., Murray, H. M., Trompet, S., Westendorp, R. G. J., Buckley, B., de Craen, A. J. M., Sattar, N., & Ford, I. (2008). Does low to moderate alcohol intake protect against cognitive decline in older people?. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 56, 2217-2224. doi: 10.1111/j.1532- 5415.2008.02007.x
  • Zack, M., Poulos, C. X., Fragopoulos, F., & MacLeod, C. M. (2003). Effects of negative and positive mood phrases on priming of alcohol words in young drinkers with high and low anxiety sensitivity. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 11, 176- 185. doi: 10.1037/1064-1297.11.2.176