Resistance to Cognitive Impairment Under Alcohol: The Role of Environmental Consequences

Exp Clin Psychopharmacol. 1997 Aug;5(3):251-5. doi: 10.1037//1064-1297.5.3.251.


This study showed that cognitive impairment under alcohol is affected by environmental factors. Forty male social drinkers were randomly assigned to 4 groups. Participants practiced a task that measured their rate of information processing. Three groups then performed the task under a moderate dose of alcohol (0.62 g/kg) and received either an immediate, informative monetary consequence (MI); a delayed, uninformative monetary consequence (M); or no consequence (N) for maintaining their unimpaired processing rate. A control group (C) performed the task without alcohol or any consequence for performance. The processing rates of Groups M and N were slower (i.e., impaired) under alcohol than those of Group C. In contrast, Group MI displayed no significant reduction in processing rate under alcohol (i.e., no impairment). Resistance to the impairing effects of alcohol on information processing is enhanced by a rewarding consequence that conveys information about the adequacy of performance under the drug.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / blood
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / pharmacology*
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Environment*
  • Ethanol / blood
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Processes / drug effects
  • Practice, Psychological
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Ethanol