The Effects of Alcohol Intoxication and Affective Arousal on Criminal Decision Making

M. Lyn Exum, Univ. of North Carolina at Charlotte

While emphasizing the importance of the thought processes that underlie criminal decision-making, rational choice theorists have largely ignored the affective conditions and psychopharmacological agents that may attenuate cognitive ability. Using an experimental design, this study examines whether sexual arousal and alcohol intoxication impact the perceived consequences associated with criminal behavior. Male subjects of legal drinking age are randomized to consume either an alcoholic or nonalcoholic beverage, with the former designed to elevate blood alcohol levels to 0.08%. Half of the subjects in each drink condition are randomly assigned to view sexually explicit images, while the remaining half view neutral images. All subjects than read three hypothetical scenarios and complete a series of questions designed to measure their intentions to engage in drunk driving, sexual assault, and physical assault. The effects of alcohol and arousal on intentions to offend and the perceived costs/benefits associated with these acts are discussed.

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Updated 05/20/2006