Multilead event-related potentials (ERPs), elicited by auditory and visual stimuli requiring a button press response and by a startling noise requiring no response, were recorded from male alcoholics and age-matched male controls (26–60 years old). Single-trial analyses of blink responses to the startling stimuli indicated that alcoholics startle less frequently but with equivalent amplitude as the controls. In contrast, single-trial analyses of P3 indicated that alcoholics generate a P3 as often as controls, but that their individual P3s are smaller. Alcoholics who reported a positive family history of problem drinking had larger startle blink amplitudes and smaller auditory and visual P3s than did alcoholics who reported a negative family history. Hierarchical regression analysis was used to demonstrate that smaller P3s in family history positive alcoholics were independent of lifetime alcohol consumption.