A short fuse after alcohol: implicit power associations predict aggressiveness after alcohol consumption in young heavy drinkers with limited executive control

Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2009 Sep;93(3):300-5. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2009.02.003. Epub 2009 Feb 23.


This study tested a hypothesis derived from recent dual-process models, which conceptualize behavior as the interplay of associative and Executive Control (EC) processes. This general logic was applied here to the phenomenon of aggressiveness after drinking alcohol. Specifically, we predicted that automatic associations between alcohol and power would predict aggressiveness after drinking in men with relatively weak EC. Participants were 57 heavy drinking male students, who completed two versions of the Implicit Association Test (IAT), one assessing alcohol-power associations (hypothesized critical associations) and one alcohol-arousal associations (control-test), a classical Stroop test (measure of EC) and a number of alcohol-related questionnaires, including four questions on aggressiveness after drinking (dependent variable). As predicted, automatic alcohol-power associations significantly predicted self-reported aggressiveness after drinking in low but not in high EC individuals. As expected, this interaction was specific for alcohol-power associations since it was not found with regard to alcohol-arousal associations. We argue that this finding, together with a recent related findings, indicates that specific instances of "impulsivity" can be conceptualized as the joint outcome of two processes: a general weak EC and an associative process that predicts the impulsive behavior under study when not inhibited by EC processes.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aggression / drug effects*
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Arousal / drug effects
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / pharmacology
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Ethanol / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Regression Analysis
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Ethanol