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The Elusive Effects of Alcohol Intoxication on Visual Attention and Eyewitness Memory


Correspondence to: Alistair J. Harvey, Department of Psychology, University of Winchester, West Hill, Winchester, Hampshire SO22 4NR, UK.



Alcohol is a contributing factor in many crimes, yet little is known of its effects on eyewitness memory and face identification. Some authors suggest that intoxication impairs attention and memory, particularly for peripheral scene information, but the data supporting this claim are limited. The present study therefore sought to determine whether (i) intoxicated participants spend less time fixating on peripheral regions of crime images than sober counterparts, (ii) whether less information is recognised from image regions receiving fewer gaze fixations and (iii) whether intoxicated participants are less able to identify the perpetrator of a crime than sober participants. Contrary to expectations, participants' ability to explore and subsequently recognise the contents of the stimulus scenes was unaffected by alcohol, suggesting that the relationship between intoxication, attention and eyewitness memory requires closer scrutiny. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.