"Groupdrink"? The effect of alcohol on risk attraction among groups versus individuals
Hulbert, Lorne G.
Objective: The objective of the present study is to assess the impact of alcohol consumption on the risk orientation of people when they are in groups as opposed to alone. Alcohol is often consumed within social groups, but previous research has not distinguished whether particular group processes affect risk differently as a consequence of alcohol consumption. Three theory-based predictions are tested to see whether, after alcohol consumption, groups encourage or inhibit risk as a result of group polarization, deindividuation, or group monitoring. Method: Male participants (N = 120; ages 18-28), recruited via opportunity sample from students at the University of Kent, were assigned as individuals or as members of four-person groups. They had their breath alcohol concentration analyzed to ensure they were alcohol free and then were asked to consume either a placebo or alcohol in amounts equivalent to the legal limit for driving in the United States and the United Kingdom (.08% blood alcohol concentration). Participants completed a risk-attraction task either alone or in a group. Each participant also completed an alcohol-expectancy questionnaire. Results: Individuals found risky choices significantly more attractive after consuming alcohol. In contrast, members of groups showed no such increase. In alcohol but not placebo conditions, groups made their decisions more slowly than did individuals. Conclusions: The results are consistent with the group-monitoring hypothesis (i.e., that group members attend to each other and promote a greater level of systematic processing of the risks presented). Results indicate that with moderate social drinking, groups may provide an informal means of mutual regulation and monitoring that can offset some aspects of alcohol myopia.