A moderate dose of alcohol selectively reduces empathic accuracy

Freya Thiel, Brian D. Ostafin, Jana R. Uppendahl, Lenka J. Wichmann, Marco Schlosser, Marije aan het Rot

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Rationale: Drinking alcohol is associated with various interpersonal effects, including effects on cognitive empathy. Empathic accuracy (EA) is a form of cognitive empathy concerned with perceivers’ accuracy in inferring a target’s thoughts and feelings. The effects of alcohol on EA have not previously been studied. Objectives: We examined the effect of a moderate alcohol dose on EA in social drinkers. Methods: Fifty-four men with varying levels of hazardous drinking according to the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) participated in a randomized, double-blind, between-group study. The alcohol group received 0.56 g/kg alcohol in a vodka and tonic-mixed drink. The placebo group received tonic, with 4 ml of vodka sprayed on top. All participants performed an EA task that involved watching 16 videos of people narrating positive and negative emotional autobiographical events and continuously rating how targets felt while narrating. Results: There were no significant main effects of beverage condition on the EA task. There was an effect of the condition by AUDIT interaction for EA on the positive videos. Post-hoc simple contrasts revealed that in participants with lower AUDIT scores, the alcohol condition had lower EA for positive videos than the placebo condition. No significant main effect for condition occurred in the participants with higher AUDIT scores. Conclusions: The effect of condition in participants with lower AUDIT scores indicates alcohol selectively reduced EA in individuals low on hazardous drinking. This suggests either alcohol-induced impairments of EA for positive events or a positivity bias in men at low risk for alcohol dependency.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1479-1486
Number of pages8
JournalPsychopharmacology
Volume235
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2018

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Alcohols
Drinking
Placebos
Beverages
Alcohol Drinking
Emotions
Identification (Psychology)

Keywords

  • Alcohol consumption
  • Empathic accuracy
  • Risk for alcoholism
  • Social cognition

Cite this

Thiel, F., Ostafin, B. D., Uppendahl, J. R., Wichmann, L. J., Schlosser, M., & aan het Rot, M. (2018). A moderate dose of alcohol selectively reduces empathic accuracy. Psychopharmacology, 235(5), 1479-1486. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-018-4859-y
Thiel, Freya ; Ostafin, Brian D. ; Uppendahl, Jana R. ; Wichmann, Lenka J. ; Schlosser, Marco ; aan het Rot, Marije. / A moderate dose of alcohol selectively reduces empathic accuracy. In: Psychopharmacology. 2018 ; Vol. 235, No. 5. pp. 1479-1486.
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Thiel, F, Ostafin, BD, Uppendahl, JR, Wichmann, LJ, Schlosser, M & aan het Rot, M 2018, 'A moderate dose of alcohol selectively reduces empathic accuracy' Psychopharmacology, vol. 235, no. 5, pp. 1479-1486. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-018-4859-y

A moderate dose of alcohol selectively reduces empathic accuracy. / Thiel, Freya; Ostafin, Brian D.; Uppendahl, Jana R.; Wichmann, Lenka J.; Schlosser, Marco; aan het Rot, Marije.

In: Psychopharmacology, Vol. 235, No. 5, 01.05.2018, p. 1479-1486.

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Thiel F, Ostafin BD, Uppendahl JR, Wichmann LJ, Schlosser M, aan het Rot M. A moderate dose of alcohol selectively reduces empathic accuracy. Psychopharmacology. 2018 May 1;235(5):1479-1486. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-018-4859-y