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The Effects of a Cumulative Alcohol Dosing Procedure on Laboratory Aggression in Women and Men

Donald M. Dougherty, James M. Bjork, Robert H. Bennett, F. Gerard Moeller

Objective: This study directly compared the effects of cumulative alcohol dosing procedure on aggression in both women and men. Method: Thirteen women and 13 men consumed three beverages 1 hour apart. There were two experimental conditions: (1) a placebo day, when subjects consumed three 240 ml beverages, each containing only 1 ml of alcohol; and (2) an alcohol day, when subjects consumed three 240 ml beverages, each containing 0.35 g/kg of 95% alcohol. Alcohol doses for women were reduced by 8%. Prior to beverage consumption, and periodically after consumption, subjects participated in 25-minute laboratory testing sessions designed to measure aggression. In this paradigm, subjects could earn points by responding on a button, or aggress toward a fictitious opponent who ostensibly subtracted earnings from them. Results: Both women and men showed an increase in aggressive responding after drinking alcohol but not placebo. As a group the greatest increases were observed after consuming the second alcohol drink (BAC = 0.08%). Aggressive responding, however, remained elevated for several hours after alcohol consumption. A post hoc analysis of the data indicated that subjects with high aggression levels under placebo conditions showed the greatest increases in aggression under alcohol conditions. Conclusions: These results indicate that at least under these conditions, alcohol does increase aggression in both women and men. The aggression-increasing effects of alcohol appear to be long-lasting and specific to individuals with the higher aggressive tendencies while sober. (J. Stud. Alcohol 60: 322-329, 1999)