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Keywords:

  • vulnerability;
  • alcohol;
  • aggression

Abstract

The determination of which individuals are at risk of responding aggressively when intoxicated and under what conditions this is likely to occur is basic to understanding the alcohol/aggression relationship. Three theorized mechanisms on which individuals display differential vulnerability and which are related to risk are discussed. These are the cue for reinforcement system, the threat system, and the executive control system. Under the latter heading new findings from a number of studies are presented which demonstrate that: under low provocation intoxicated executive cognitive functioning (ECF) individuals performed with significantly more aggression than sober or intoxicated high ECF individuals; that individuals with low ECF, though more aggressive, choose these responses more slowly than those with high ECF; that low ECF, unlike high ECF, individuals do not react to anticipated shock; and, it is specifically low sober state ECF individuals who show increased alcohol induced ECF disruption who are most at risk for intoxicated aggression. Aggr. Behav. 29:302–315, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.