Links between alcohol consumption, our perception of others and increased levels of aggression

Effects of acute alcohol consumption on the perception of eye gaze direction

From Journal of Psychopharmacology

This article explores the link between alcohol and increased aggression by assessing differences in how people look at others. The study uses a gaze perception task to monitor the response of participants to stimulus faces to gauge if they felt they were looking towards or away from them. It observed how such perception may change with the amount of alcohol consumed. This study also considers the gender differences between such perceptions. The findings suggest that alcohol consumption does influence how people perceive social situations; these effects may have important implications for alcohol related violence.

Abstract

Alcohol consumption is associated with increases in aggressive behaviour, but the mechanisms underlying this relationship are poorly understood. One mechanism by which alcohol consumption may influence behaviour is via alterations in the processing of social cues such as gaze. We investigated the effects of acute alcohol consumption on the perception of gaze, using a task in which participants determined whether a stimulus face was looking towards or away from them. Gaze direction varied across trials, allowing calculation of a threshold at which participants considered gaze to switch from direct to averted. Target faces varied in both sex and attractiveness. Thirty social drinkers attended three randomized experimental sessions. At each session, participants consumed 0.0, 0.2 or 0.4 g/kg alcohol, and completed the gaze perception task. A significant three-way interaction involving
target sex, participant sex and alcohol dose indicated that alcohol increased the cone of gaze for females viewing male targets (i.e. females were biased towards making a direct gaze judgement), but decreased the cone of gaze for males viewing male targets. Our data indicate that alcohol consumption influences gaze perception, but that these effects vary across sex of both stimulus and rater. These effects may have important implications for alcoholrelated violence.

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Article details

Penton-Voak, I., Cooper, R., Roberts, R., Attwood, A., & Munafo, M. (2010). Effects of acute alcohol consumption on the perception of eye gaze direction Journal of Psychopharmacology DOI: 10.1177/0269881110385599

     
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