Saturday, October 22, 2011


Alcohol has been said to be linked to sexual aggression. In this chapter in the textbook, we are informed that gender and alcohol are important factors linked to aggression, especially in college students.

To prove this, Brian Marx conducted an experiment in which Male college students were asked to listen to a synthesized audio tape, designed to sound like a date rape.

"The date rape stimulus [...] consisted of an audio tape depiction of a man and a woman engaged in sexual activity. The couple was described as two college students returning to the man's apartment after a date at the movies. Physical intimacy between the couple was portrayed through dialogue and audible breathing and kissing sounds."

The audio tape ended after rape had occurred. Each individual male participant was asked to indicate the point in which the male character in the audio tape should have stopped forcing intimacy with the female character. The audio was divided into segments in which the woman's refusal escalated, beginning from gently refusing intimacy, to pleading and crying in response to the male's behavior.

To see how aggression could be linked to alcohol, one group of male participants was asked to consume alcohol while undergoing this procedure. As expected, the male participants that consumed alcohol took longer to indicate the point in which the male character in the audio should have stopped forcing intimacy than the sober ones. It is true that alcohol might reduce judgment and the power to recognize certain cues than when one is sober, but this experiment truly showed that "intoxication may weaken inhibitions against aggressive behavior" (Kassin 425) This being said, the textbook states that alcohol makes aggressive behavior seem much more justified. Because of this, we can infer that drinking alcohol is a clearly an important factor in sexually aggressive incidents amongst college students.

After reviewing this study, we can ask ourselves several questions.

Why does alcohol truly impair our viewpoint of sexual aggression? Why is it more acceptable in this scenario?

How is it possible for aggression to be so inconsistent within the same individual?

Is aggression something learned, or something innate?

-Ana Macias


  1. Because alcohol reduces anxiety, it also lowers people’s inhibitions against aggressing (Ito et al., 1996). Alcohol myopia (Steele and Josephs, 1990) is intoxication that narrows people’s focus of attention which is related to potentially destructive behaviors such as sexual aggression (MacDonald et al., 2000). But since everyone’s body is different, the level of aggression is also inconsistent with each individual. That’s why there has been a long-standing nature vs. nurture debate on aggression. Some believe people are born aggressive while others think people are taught to be aggressive. (Kassin). With the Bobo Doll experiment, we can definitely see how aggression pertains to nurture. (Bandura, 1961). The Social Learning Theory states that behavior is learned through the observation of others as well as through the direct experience of rewards and punishments (Bandura, 1977).

  2. In addition to its physiological effects, the idea of alcohol also has a psychological effect on people. If people assume that alcohol will affect them and cause them to be aggressive then they will act more aggressively while consuming it (Begue et al., 2009; Quigley & Leonard, 2006). Even the mere presence of alcohol without consumption can stimulate aggression in some people. The alcohol acts as a cue which sets people up for aggressive thoughts and perceptions due to their associations of alcohol with aggression (Bartholow & Heinz, 2006)

  3. Many car accidents, crimes, fights, sexual aggressions are triggered from the consumption of alcohol. The consumption of alcohol leads to aggressive behaviors. Even if a certain individual is not aggressive in his or her daily life after consuming alcohol they do tend to be less anxious of their behaviors and more aggressive. “Alcohol also disrupts the way we process information.” (Social Psychology pg. 461 (Leonard,1989)) It leads people to understand things that are not said or meant a certain way differently which leads to big arguments and fights among people. Even though the effects change according to peoples bodies and according to gender people always tend to be less anxious about the environment around them.

  4. There are several theories as to why alcohol increases aggressive impulses. One is because self control takes a lot of energy, the glucose required for this energy is very high. Alcohol reduces glucose in both the brain and body and therefore impairs self control, including the self-control needed to restrain aggressive impulses. Another is blamed on the "myopic" or narrowing effect on attention (Steele & Josephs, 1990) where people no longer are able to pay attention to more subtle features and only on the more notable features. Another one is that alcohol disrupts executive functions (Giancola, 2000)

    However, the one I would like to focus on is the explanation that alcohol increases aggression by decreasing self-awareness (Hull, 1981). When there is lowered self-awareness, the internal standards within a person that is against behaving aggressively is reduced. The subjects within the experiments, with the help of alcohol, had their tendency for aggression to be much stronger than without it. This aggression might have been both innate and learned because we do not know if this aggressive behavior was learned over a lifetime but suppressed or something we were originally born with.

  5. I think it is interesting that this experiment used sexual violence as a model of aggression, but it relates to another study I read (Steele 1985)which says that intoxicated males acted much more differently than their sober counterparts in situations which were under high inhibitory conflict, like sexual violence, as opposed to in situations which were less conflicting. "The effect of conflict increased with alcohol dosage".

  6. The “Nature vs. Nurture” aspect of aggressing is interesting, although research shows that acute alcohol consumption is related to the expression of aggressive behavior, there is a wide range of individual differences among these data. In other words, not all people become aggressive when they drink. Therefore, it can be argued that alcohol does not directly cause aggression solely through its pharmacological actions (Bushman and Cooper, 1990). Rather, accumulating evidence indicates that intoxicated aggression the product of individual difference and contextual variables interacting with alcohol (Chermack and Giancola, 1997). Alcohol does seem to have a direct link to aggressive behavior, people aggress more under the influence of alcohol because it allows the individual to be less inhibited by his/her own actions. But like the research showed not everyone becomes aggressive when they drink, meaning that personality and the type of person you are greatly effects your aggression under the influence and if one aggresses or not.

  7. I don't think this is really a matter of inconsistency with relation to aggression, I think it's just a matter of inhibitions. With lowered inhibitions, the mind doesn't go through the same thought processes and can definitely arrive at a different evaluation of what is and is not acceptable. I'm having trouble finding the studies at the moment, but I've been told drinking can also lower your inhibitions about things you normally wouldn't do, like drinking too much, or driving drunk.
    But I did manage to stumble onto this nifty statistic, alcohol was a significant factor in
    68 percent of manslaughter cases
    62 percent of assault offenders
    54 percent of murders
    48 percent of robberies
    44 percent of burgerlies
    (National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. 1998.)

    I however would like to hear what drunk girls thought about the recording. Or one with the roles reversed.

  8. Alcohol impairs the way we think and judge things, leading to the wrong decisions. I think it is more based on how much you had to consume within a certain amount of time. People drink for many different reasons; whether it be for an occasion, party, because they’re feeling down, etc. Whatever mindset they have before they drink, I assume that it will be shown by their behavior after they’ve consumed a certain amount. Also, alcohol has the tendency to give one the mindset that they don’t care about what others think, they are able to let loose. So, they might not accept it when they’re sober, but alcohol has the tendency to give people misjudgments. I think aggression is so inconsistent within the same individual because they’ve gone through different experiences leading to their judgments, when impaired.

  9. In especially male drinkers the combination of the expectations of alcohol and the role of testosterone can account for I'm sure a staggering amount of violent statistics among college students. In the reading it discusses that men in groups (fraternities) that frequent illicit behavior have jacked levels of testosterone that lead them to become more rambunctious and crude as a whole. (Dabbs et al., 1996) This influence as an introduction of alcohol with its expectations (people expect alcohol to affect them which makes them more aggressive) ( Barnwell et al., 2006; Bushman & Cooper, 1990; Quigley & Leonard, 2006) can produce stagger social exceptions.

    I'm sure that these factors in conglomeration are a basis for many of these incidents. Regardless of the study's limitations, the factors of boys will be boys should always be noted as the scenarios that would be most common in this case. Aggression is often a side effect of the male ego and performing for others which could be a reason why many who were listening drunk waited a little longer to see what would happen. Natural curiosity which over powers sense of right and wrong while intoxicated.

  10. Our text book, Social Psychology, gives several points that explain why Aggression can be learned or Innate. The book explores three approaches : instinct theories, evolutionary psychological accounts; and biological factors including genes, hormones and neurotransmitters. (pg. 398).

    Then there is also learned behavior. I personally find the social learning theory the most intriguing. It is defined as : "The theory that behavior is learned through the observation of others as well as through the direct experience of rewards and punishments." The BOBO doll experiment that we watched in class is a great example of how aggression can be quickly picked up after viewing the behavior. I think it is clear that Aggression can be learned and / or also innate.

  11. Alcohol abuse, battering and aggression are three different social issues. Sometimes they can be related to each depending on the situation. Alcohol does reduce the time laps during which an event might have happened; in the audio date tape rape, the man could have better control his urge to have sex with the woman and have it another day when the woman is ready. Battering and aggression are learned behavior and not related to alcohol consumption or mental illness. Most of the time, alcohol abuse is an excuse to a violent act like rape. It is easier to blame it on the alcohol itself rather than to deal with the situation. Alcohol does not make a man abuse a woman. Some occasions happen where many men abuse women when they are sober. It is easier to believe that violence would not have occurred if a drink had not been taken. Alcoholism and battering might even be the result of environment the person lives in or have been passed from the previous generations. They are both subjects of denial and involve isolation of the concerned persons.

    Gloria Harrell