Effects of acute alcohol consumption on emotion recognition in social alcohol drinkers

Jasmine Khouja*, Angela Attwood, Ian Penton-Voak, Marcus Munafo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
411 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Research suggests that acute alcohol consumption alters recognition of emotional expressions. Extending this work, we investigated the effects of alcohol on recognition of six primary expressions of emotion. Methods: We conducted two studies using a 2×6 experimental design with a between-subjects factor of drink (alcohol, placebo) and a within-subjects factor of emotion (anger, disgust, sadness, surprise, happiness, fear). Study one (n = 110) was followed by a direct replication study (n = 192). Participants completed a six alternative forced choice emotion recognition task following consumption of 0.4 g/kg alcohol or placebo. Dependent variables were recognition accuracy (i.e., hits) and false alarms. Results:There was no clear evidence of differences in recognition accuracy between groups (ps > .58). In study one, there were more false alarms for anger in the alcohol compared to placebo group (n = 52 and 56 respectively; t (94.6) = 2.26, p = .024, d = .44) and fewer false alarms for happiness (t (106) = -2.42, p = .017, d = -.47). However, no clear evidence for these effects was found in study two (alcohol group n = 96, placebo group n = 93, ps > .22). When the data were combined we observed weak evidence of an effect of alcohol on false alarms of anger (t (295) = 2.25, p = .025, d = .26). Conclusions: These studies find weak support for biased anger perception following acute alcohol consumption in social consumers, which could have implications for alcohol-related aggression. Future research should investigate the robustness of this effect, particularly in individuals high in trait aggression.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)326-334
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Psychopharmacology
Issue number3
Early online date5 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019

Structured keywords

  • CRICBristol
  • Brain and Behaviour
  • Cognitive Science
  • Social Cognition
  • Tobacco and Alcohol
  • Physical and Mental Health


  • Alcohol
  • alcohol-related aggression
  • anger
  • emotion recognition


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