Volume 96, Issue 56
Thursday, January 9, 2003

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Drunken debauchery all a mental game?

By Liam Kaufman
Gazette Writer

Think you're drunk? According to psychologists at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, the mere suggestion that you are drunk is enough to negatively influence ones memory.

According to the study, written by professors Seema Assefi and Maryanne Garry, the psychologists gave the participants tonic water with no alcohol. Half were told it contained alcohol – the placebo – while the other half were told it did not contain alcohol. The participants were then shown a series of 15 slides with various images, and later asked to recall what they saw.

The study found participants who were told they had consumed alcohol were less accurate when recalling what they saw. The confidence of these subjects was shown to be greater than those who knew they had not consumed alcohol.

Albert Katz, a Western psychology professor, said he has been conducting similar experiments, only using a larger sample.

"Our experiment looked at the role of expectancy for alcohol and we found differences between people," Katz said.

"People who believed that alcohol would have an effect on their memory did worse on memory tests after they were told they had consumed alcohol," he said.

It was assumed that memory could not be effected by social factors, such as suggestion, before such studies were conducted. However, both Katz's research and the study's findings confirmed that social factors clearly do play a role in memory.

Similar research is being carried out investigating alcohol's effects on vision. "Suggestion that one has consumed alcohol seems to have no effect on one's vision," said Brian Timney, Western's dean of the faculty of social science. However, actual alcohol consumption does effect vision, he said.

"Alcohol relaxes the muscles in the eyes, producing double vision," Timney stated.

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2002 THE GAZETTE