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The influence of groups and alcohol consumption on individual risk-taking

Erskine-Shaw, M and Monk, RL and Qureshi, AW and Heim, D (2017) The influence of groups and alcohol consumption on individual risk-taking. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 179. pp. 341-346. ISSN 0376-8716

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Abstract

© 2017 Elsevier B.V. Background: Research addressing the influence of alcohol and groups on risky behaviour has yielded contradictory findings regarding the extent to which intoxicated groups exaggerate or minimise risk-taking. Previous work has examined the effect of intoxication on risk-taking focusing on collective group decision-making, and to date the influence of alcohol consumption and groups on individual risk-taking has yet to be explored experimentally. The current study therefore examined the impact of intoxication and groups on individual risk-taking. Methods In a mixed design, 99 social drinkers (62 female) attended an experimental session individually (N = 48) or in groups of three (N = 51). Individuals completed the study in isolation while groups were tested in the same room. Participants completed two behavioural measures of risk-taking: Balloon Analogue Risk Task (BART) and Stoplight Task (SLT), both before and following consumption of an alcoholic (0.6 g/kg males, 0.5 g/kg females) or a placebo beverage. Results Those who participated in groups took significantly more risks in both tasks than those in isolation. Alcohol did not increase risk-taking on either risk-taking tasks. However, those who consumed placebo were significantly less risky on the SLT, compared to baseline. No interactions were found between context and beverage on risk-taking. Conclusion The findings do not support a combined effect of alcohol and groups on individual risk-taking. Rather, results indicate that risk-taking behaviour is influenced by peer presence regardless of alcohol consumption. Targeting the influence of groups (above those of alcohol) may hold promise for reducing risk-taking behaviours in drinking environments.

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