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Alcohol Effects on Behavioral Control: The Impact of Likelihood and Magnitude of Negative Consequences


  • This study was supported by grants from the Alcoholic Beverage Medical Research Foundation (ABMRF) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA; P50 AA012870-03, Yale Center for Translational Neuroscience of Alcoholism).

Reprint requests: William R. Corbin, PhD, Department of Psychology, Yale University, Box 208205, New Haven, CT 06520-8205; Fax: 203-432-7172; E-mail:


Background: This study utilized Signal Detection Theory to examine the relative influence of likelihood and magnitude of consequences when assessing alcohol effects on behavioral control.

Methods: Moderate to heavy drinkers (N=101) were assigned to alcohol or placebo and completed 4 administrations of a go/stop task that varied the likelihood and magnitude of punishment.

Results: Participants in the alcohol condition correctly responded to fewer go signals, and showed a trend toward reduction in sensitivity to task stimuli. Alcohol effects on sensitivity to go and stop signals were most evident when the likelihood of rewards and punishments were similar whereas the magnitude of punishment was not related to the strength of alcohol effects.

Conclusion: Results suggest that likelihood of punishment is a more powerful determinant of alcohol-induced disinhibition than is magnitude.