Alcohol intoxication and memory for events: a snapshot of alcohol myopia in a real-world drinking scenario

Memory. 2011 Feb;19(2):202-10. doi: 10.1080/09658211.2010.546802.


Alcohol typically has a detrimental impact on memory across a variety of encoding and retrieval conditions (e.g., Mintzer, 2007; Ray & Bates, 2006). No research has addressed alcohol's effect on memory for lengthy and interactive events and little has tested alcohol's effect on free recall. In this study 94 participants were randomly assigned to alcohol, placebo, or control groups and consumed drinks in a bar-lab setting while interacting with a "bartender". Immediately afterwards all participants freely recalled the bar interaction. Consistent with alcohol myopia theory, intoxicated participants only differed from placebo and control groups when recalling peripheral information. Expanding on the original hypervigilance hypothesis, placebo participants showed more conservative reporting behaviour than the alcohol or control groups by providing more uncertain and "don't know" responses. Thus, alcohol intoxication had confined effects on memory for events, supporting and extending current theories.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / blood
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / psychology*
  • Arousal / drug effects*
  • Attention / drug effects*
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / blood
  • Ethanol / blood
  • Female
  • Field Dependence-Independence
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / drug effects*
  • Mental Recall / drug effects*
  • Reference Values
  • Young Adult


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Ethanol