The Effects of Alcohol Intoxication and Anger on the Robustness of the Rational Choice Model

M. Lyn Exum, University of North Carolina - Charlotte

ABSTRACT
Experimental research indicates that alcohol has a causal influence on aggressive behavior, especially when the drinker is provoked or angered. Using a rational choice framework, this study further examines the effects of alcohol and anger on violent decision-making. Male subjects of legal drinking age participated in a randomized experiment in which intoxication and anger levels were manipulated. Subjects then read a "bar fight" scenario and completed a series of questions measuring subjects' aggressive intentions and the perceived consequences of violence. Results indicate that alcohol and anger interacted to increase one measure of aggressivity, but the perceived costs/benefits of violence were unaffected. As this alcohol-x-anger interaction was not mediated by perceived consequences, findings suggest the rational choice model does not adequately model intoxicated, angry violence. Finally, exploratory analyses call into question the robustness of the rational choice model, suggesting that the perspective may not be the general explanation for crime it is proclaimed to be.

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Updated 05/20/2006