Alcohol myopia. Its prized and dangerous effects

Am Psychol. 1990 Aug;45(8):921-33. doi: 10.1037//0003-066x.45.8.921.


This article explains how alcohol makes social responses more extreme, enhances important self-evaluations, and relieves anxiety and depression, effects that underlie both the social destructiveness of alcohol and the reinforcing effects that make it an addictive substance. The theories are based on alcohol's impairment of perception and thought--the myopia it causes--rather than on the ability of alcohol's pharmacology to directly cause specific reactions or on expectations associated with alcohol's use. Three conclusions are offered (a) Alcohol makes social behaviors more extreme by blocking a form of response conflict. (b) The same process can inflate self-evaluations. (c) Alcohol myopia, in combination with distracting activity, can reliably reduce anxiety and depression in all drinkers by making it difficult to allocate attention to the thoughts that provoke these states. These theories are discussed in terms of their significance for the prevention and treatment of alcohol abuse.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / psychology
  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Environment