In people who drink more, facets of theory of mind may be impaired by alcohol stimuli

REBECCA MONK*, ADAM QURESHI, GRAEME KNIBB, LAUREN MCGALE, Leonie Nair, Jordan Kelly, Hope Collins, Derek Heim

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Abstract

Background: Theory of mind (ToM) – the ability to understand others’ beliefs, mental states, and knowledge – is an important part of successful social interaction. There is a growing (albeit mixed) evidence base suggesting that problem drinking and intoxication (relative to sober controls) can impact performance on a number of ToM tasks. The aim of this study is to explore the hitherto little explored notion that ToM-related capabilities such as the ability to see the world from another person’s perspective (termed Visual Perspective Taking; VPT), may be impacted by alcohol-related stimuli. Method: In this pre-registered study, 108 participants (M age = 25.75, SD age = 5.67) completed a revised version of the director task where they followed the instructions of an avatar to move both alcohol beverages and soft drinks that were mutually visible (target objects) while avoiding those only visible to the participant (distractor items). Results: Contrary to predictions, accuracy was lower when the target drink was alcohol and the distractor was a soft drink, although higher AUDIT scores were associated with significantly lower accuracy when alcohol drinks were the distractor items. Conclusions: There may be some contexts when being able to see alcohol beverages make it harder to take another person’s perspective. It also appears that problematic consumption may be associated with poorer VPT and perhaps ToM capacity. Future research should explore further how alcohol beverages, problem drinking, and intoxication may interact to impact VPT capacity.
Original languageEnglish
Article number109811
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
Volume245
Early online date21 Feb 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2023

Keywords

  • Alcohol Dependency
  • Theory of Mind
  • Visual perspective taking
  • Heavy drinking

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