This application has 2 main goals: 1) to test a psychological model [the Alcohol Myopia Model (AMM);Steele &Josephs, 1990] that can explain the relation between alcohol intoxication and aggression and 2) to understand how established risk factors for intoxicated aggression operate within the AMM. The AMM contends that alcohol intoxication disrupts cognitive functioning thus creating a "myopic" or a narrowing effect on attentional capacity. This myopic effect facilitates aggression by restricting one's attention onto more salient provocative cues inherent in a hostile situation rather than less salient non-provocative, or inhibitory, cues. STUDY 1 will examine how distraction from provocation influences aggression under the influence of alcohol. It will also determine whether key trait risk factors (i.e., hostile rumination, beliefs about aggression, anger, self-awareness, and empathy) moderate the alcohol-aggression relation within the context of the AMM. Subjects will be 420 adult male and female social drinkers randomly assigned to 1 of 3 alcohol dose groups (alcohol, placebo, sober) and 1 of 2 distraction groups (distraction, no-distraction). Trait risk factors will be measured using validated self-report measures. Aggression will then be assessed using a version of the well- established Taylor Aggression Paradigm (TAP;Taylor, 1967) in which subjects administer and receive electric shocks to/from a fictitious opponent under the guise of a competitive reaction-time task. Aggression will be operationalized as a composite index of the shock intensity and duration administered by the subject to the fictitious opponent. STUDY 2 builds on Study 1 by testing the external validity of the AMM (to the extent possible in a laboratory setting) in explaining alcohol's effects on aggression by assessing the effectiveness of a contextual cue manipulation designed to mimic a more real-world setting. Its results will lend further credence to the AMM as it will demonstrate that a more externally valid distraction (i.e., a contextual manipulation comparing aggression-inhibiting vs. aggression-promoting cues) will also be effective in suppressing aggression. Subjects will be 240 adult male and female social drinkers, randomly assigned to 1 of 3 beverage groups (alcohol, placebo, sober) and 1 of 2 cue manipulation groups (aggression-inhibiting or aggression-promoting). Aggression will be measured using the TAP.
This project will provide a new understanding of the causes of alcohol-related violence. It will have significant implications for the development of public health interventions designed to reduce the negative consequences, particularly violence, associated with alcohol consumption. Support for these hypotheses will encourage public health researchers to develop new and innovative interventions marked by frequent and highly salient positive anti-violence and health-promoting cues in situations where violence is often the result of alcohol intoxication (e.g., bars, sports venues, college campuses, etc).