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., Briley, D. A., Kang, D., Fraley, R. C., Hankin, B. L., & Ariss, T. (In Press). A meta-analysis of attachment security and substance use. Psychological Bulletin.

Fairbairn, C. E. (2017). Drinking among strangers: A meta-analysis examining familiarity as a moderator of alcohol’s rewarding effects. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 31, 255–264.

Fairbairn, C. E., & Testa, M. (2017). Relationship quality and alcohol-related social reinforcement during couples interaction. Clinical Psychological Science, 5, 74-84.

Fairbairn, C. E. & Bresin, K. (2017). The effects of contextual familiarity on alcohol expectancies. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 25, 13–23.

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. (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. (2014). A social-attributional analysis of alcohol response. Psychological Bulletin, 140, 1361-1382.

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

Building Remodeling Projects

Click on the title to check out these pictures from the classroom remodeling project in the basement. A second project to replace the elevators will begin in September. Beginning with the freight elevator, each elevator will be out of service for three months. To get quickly from one floor to another, and improve your fitness, we will encourage the use of the stairs. The repainting of the northeast stairwell has been completed, and the painter is starting on the southwest stairwell.