Absolut memory distortions: alcohol placebos influence the misinformation effect

Psychol Sci. 2003 Jan;14(1):77-80. doi: 10.1111/1467-9280.01422.


Can the simple suggestion that you have consumed alcohol affect your memory for an event? Alcohol placebos affect social behaviors but not nonsocial ones, and have not previously been shown to affect memory. We investigated the effect of alcohol placebos using materials that revealed both the social and the nonsocial influences of memory Subjects drank plain tonic water, but half were told it was a vodka and tonic; then all subjects took part in an eyewitness memory experiment. Subjects who were told they drank alcohol were more swayed by misleading postevent information than were those who were told they drank tonic water, and were also more confident about the accuracy of their responses. Our results show that the mere suggestion of alcohol consumption may make subjects more susceptible to misleading information and inappropriately confident. These results also provide additional confirmation that eyewitness memory is influenced by both nonsocial and social factors.

MeSH terms

  • Carbonated Beverages
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Ethanol / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Memory / drug effects*
  • Placebo Effect
  • Suggestion*


  • Ethanol