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Acute alcohol intoxication and the cocktail party problem: Do “mocktails” help or hinder?

Harvey, A. J. and Beaman, P. (2021) Acute alcohol intoxication and the cocktail party problem: Do “mocktails” help or hinder? Psychopharmacology. ISSN 0033-3158 (In Press)

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Abstract/Summary

Rationale To test the notion that alcohol impairs auditory attentional control by reducing the listener’s cognitive capacity. Objectives We examined the effect of alcohol consumption and working memory span on dichotic speech shadowing and the cocktail party effect – the ability to focus on one of many simultaneous speakers yet still detect mention of one’s name amidst the background speech. Alcohol was expected either to increase name detection, by weakening the inhibition of irrelevant speech, or reduce name detection, by restricting auditory attention on to the primary input channel. Low-span participants were expected to show larger drug impairments than high-span counterparts. Methods On completion of the working memory span task, participants (n = 81) were randomly assigned to an alcohol or placebo beverage treatment. After alcohol absorption they shadowed speech presented to one ear while ignoring the synchronised speech of a different speaker presented to the other. Each participant’s first name was covertly embedded in to-be-ignored speech. Results The “cocktail party effect” was not affected by alcohol or working memory span, though low-span participants made more shadowing errors and recalled fewer words from the primary channel than high-span counterparts. Bayes factors support a null effect of alcohol on the cocktail party phenomenon, on shadowing errors, and on memory for either shadowed or ignored speech. Conclusion Findings suggest that an alcoholic beverage producing a moderate level of intoxication (M BAC ≈ 0.08%) neither enhances nor impairs the cocktail party effect.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Psychology
Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Language and Cognition
Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Nutrition and Health
ID Code:99137
Publisher:Springer Verlag

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