Stress-response-dampening effects of alcohol: attention as a mediator and moderator

J Abnorm Psychol. 2007 May;116(2):362-77. doi: 10.1037/0021-843X.116.2.362.


The present study sought to characterize alcohol's stress-response-dampening (SRD) effects on multiple measures of stress and whether these effects are mediated by reductions in sustained attention and, further, whether baseline levels of sustained attention moderate SRD. One hundred six men consumed either an alcohol (0.70 g/kg) or a placebo beverage prior to learning that they would deliver a self-disclosing speech. Structural equation models controlling for multiple baseline periods indicated that alcohol directly reduced self-reported anxiety and skin conductance levels in response to the stressor. Alcohol's effect on reducing heart rate response, in contrast, was indirect and mediated by effects on prestress baseline. As hypothesized, differences in sustained attention partially mediated the effects of alcohol on skin conductance (but not heart rate or self-reported anxiety) and served as a moderator of alcohol's effects on skin conductance response. Findings are discussed in terms of theoretical links among alcohol consumption, specific cognitive abilities, and stress reactivity.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Arousal / drug effects*
  • Attention / drug effects
  • Ethanol / pharmacology
  • Galvanic Skin Response / drug effects
  • Heart Rate / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Male
  • Self Medication / psychology
  • Speech
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology


  • Ethanol