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Alcohol and Aggression: Perspectives on Controlled and Uncontrolled Social Information Processing



This paper reviews the main current social cognitive explanations of the effects of acute alcohol consumption on aggression: the cognitive disruption model, the attributional model, and model of automaticity. The cognitive disruption model posits that intoxication affects controlled processing arising from the impairment of executive cognitive functions by alcohol's pharmacological properties. The individual consequently focuses on the most salient and proximal situational factors, thereby spoiling self-regulatory processes. According to the attributional model, drinkers expect alcohol to mitigate social sanctions following aggression by shifting blame to alcohol. These explicit expectations represent an extrapharmacological cause of the alcohol–aggression link. Finally, the model of automaticity implies that alcohol meanings stored in long-term memory and activated in drinking contexts automatically trigger aggressive thoughts and behavior without the individual's awareness. The explanation of intoxicated aggression should integrate these co-etiological social cognitive models that take into account pharmacological as well as extrapharmacological consequences of alcohol consumption.