The influence of groups and alcohol consumption on individual risk-taking.

Marianne Erskine-Shaw, Rebecca Monk, Adam Qureshi, Derek Heim

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

16 Citations (Scopus)
104 Downloads (Pure)


Research addressing the influence of alcohol and groups on risky behaviour has yielded contradictory findings regarding the extent to which intoxicated groups exaggerate or minimise risk-taking. Previous work has examined the effect of intoxication on risk-taking focusing on collective group decision-making, and to date the influence of alcohol consumption and groups on individual risk-taking has yet to be explored experimentally. The current study therefore examined the impact of intoxication and groups on individual risk-taking. Methods In a mixed design, 99 social drinkers (62 female) attended an experimental session individually (N = 48) or in groups of three (N = 51). Individuals completed the study in isolation while groups were tested in the same room. Participants completed two behavioural measures of risk-taking: Balloon Analogue Risk Task (BART) and Stoplight Task (SLT), both before and following consumption of an alcoholic (0.6g/kg males, 0.5g/kg females) or a placebo beverage. Results Those who participated in groups took significantly more risks in both tasks than those in isolation. Alcohol did not increase risk-taking on either risk-taking tasks. However, those who consumed placebo were significantly less risky on the SLT, compared to baseline. No interactions were found between context and beverage on risk-taking. Conclusion The findings do not support a combined effect of alcohol and groups on individual risk-taking. Rather, results indicate that risk-taking behaviour is influenced by peer presence regardless of alcohol consumption. Targeting the influence of groups (above those of alcohol) may hold promise for reducing risk-taking behaviours in drinking environments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)341-346
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
Early online date22 Aug 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Aug 2017


  • alcohol
  • social
  • groups
  • context
  • risk-taking


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