Catharine Fairbairn

Section 1

Program Area: Clinical/Community

Assistant Professor of Psychology

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Contact Information:


  • Addiction
  • Alcohol
  • Social processes

Research Description

I'm interested in how alcohol impacts social interactions and how alcohol’s social rewards might contribute to disordered drinking. More specifically, I explore how alcohol's ability to foster feelings of social closeness and facilitate social bonding might be helpful in understanding the roots of heavy drinking and addiction. Questions I’ve examined in my work include: How does alcohol impact perceptions of social rejection? Do people at risk for alcohol use disorder gain more social reward from alcohol than others? Might specific social drinking contexts be particularly likely to foster alcohol reward?  I come at these questions using a range of experimental and non-experimental methods, including ambulatory methods, employing objective transdermal measurement of Blood Alcohol Content, and laboratory-based alcohol administration methods, using group drinking paradigms and anatomically-based facial measures of social reward.


  • Ph.D. University of Pittsburgh


  • PSYC 336: Alcohol and Alcoholism

Recent Publications

Fairbairn, C. E. (In Press). Drinking among strangers: A meta-analysis examining familiarity as a moderator of alcohol’s rewarding effects. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

Fairbairn, C. E., & Testa, M. (In Press). Relationship quality and alcohol-related social reinforcement during couples interaction. Clinical Psychological Science.

Fairbairn, C. E. & Bresin, K. W. (In Press). The effects of contextual familiarity on alcohol expectancies. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology.

Fairbairn, C. E., & Cranford, J. A. (2016). A Multimethod examination of negative behaviors during couples interactions and problem drinking trajectories. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 125, 805-810.

Fairbairn, C. E., Sayette, M. A., Aalen, O. O., & Frigessi, A. (2015). Alcohol and emotional contagion: An examination of the spreading of smiles in male and female drinking groups. Clinical Psychological Science, 3, 686-701.

Fairbairn, C. E., Sayette, M. A., Wright, A. G. C., Levine, J. M., Cohn, J. F., & Creswell, K. G. (2015). Extraversion and the rewarding effects of alcohol in a social context. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 124, 660-673.

Fairbairn, C. E., & Sayette, M. A. (2014). A social-attributional analysis of alcohol response. Psychological Bulletin, 140, 1361-1382.

Fairbairn, C. E., & Sayette, M. A. (2013). The effect of alcohol on emotional inertia: A test of alcohol myopia. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 122, 770-781.

Fairbairn, C. E., Sayette, M. A., Levine, J. M., Cohn, J. F., & Creswell, K. G. (2013). The impact of alcohol on the emotional displays of White members of interracial groups. Emotion, 13, 468-477.

Section 2


Facilities Information

All-Gender ADA Accessible Restroom

The Psychology Department is very pleased to announce that an all-gender, ADA accessible, family-friendly restroom has been built on the first floor next to the elevators. The department partnered with F&S to construct this new restroom, which is now available to use. Please note that there is an indicator on the door showing whether the restroom is available or in use. Be sure to lock the door while using the restroom, and unlock the door before leaving.