Contextual influences on subjective alcohol response.

William R. Corbin, Jessica D. Hartman, Amanda B. Bruening, Kim Fromme

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Prior research demonstrates contextual influences on drug responses in both animals and humans, although studies in humans typically focus on only one aspect of context (e.g., social) and examine a limited range of subjective experiences. The current study sought to address these limitations by examining the impact of both social and physical context on the full range of subjective alcohol effects. The sample included 448 young adult social drinkers (57% male, 66.5% White) randomly assigned to consume alcohol (target blood alcohol concentration of.08 g%) or placebo in 1 of 4 contexts (solitary lab, group lab, solitary bar, group bar). Results indicated that high arousal positive (HAP) effects of alcohol (e.g., talkative, lively) were stronger in nonbar relative to bar contexts and that low arousal positive (LAP) effects (e.g., relaxed, calm) were only present in the group lab context. There were also main effects of social context such that high arousal effects (both positive and negative) were stronger in group contexts, regardless of beverage condition. These findings highlight the importance of considering context when examining alcohol effects. Studies designed to isolate pharmacological HAP effects may benefit from a nonbar setting, and studies of LAP effects might be most effective in a simulated living room or home environment, although future studies are needed to directly address this possibility. Further, studies with an explicit focus on expectancies or that need strong control for expectancies might benefit from a group context, particularly when studying high arousal effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)48-58
Number of pages11
JournalExperimental and clinical psychopharmacology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • alcohol
  • physical context
  • placebo
  • social context
  • subjective response

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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