The Effects of Acute Alcohol Consumption on Components of Alcohol Myopia Theory

Date of Award

August 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Stephen A. Maisto


Alcohol Myopia Theory, Cognition, Perception, Risk and Reward Reactivity, Working Memory

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


Alcohol consumption has been associated with failure in self-regulation, which can result in the engagement in risk-taking behaviors. Alcohol Myopia Theory (AMT) proposes that engagement in abnormal or exaggerated behavior is due to alcohol’s effect on two components, cognition and perception. However, these two components are not well operationalized in AMT and have not been tested in the same model with a behavioral risk task that accounts for social contextual factors. The purpose of this experiment was to investigate whether working memory and risk and reward reactivity mediate the association between acute alcohol consumption and alcohol seeking behavior. The participants were 85 moderate or heavy drinkers between the ages of 21 and 28. Participants were randomized into one of three beverage conditions (control, placebo, or a dose of 1.02g of alcohol/kg body weight). Performance on working memory, risk and reward reactivity, and willingness to consume alcohol were measured using Operation Word Span, the Balloon Analogue Risk Task, and the Collegiate-Simulated Intoxication Digital Elicitation auditory simulation, respectively. Path analysis revealed that the alcohol consumption group performed significantly worse on a measure of working memory, but displayed no differences in risk and reward reactivity or willingness to consume alcohol when compared to the other beverage conditions. The findings are discussed with the conclusion that empirical validation of AMT is still necessary, however, improved measures are needed to assess the constructs of interest. In addition, AMT may be more complex than presented in the original model and may need to be operationalized differently.


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