Groupdrink is the act of consuming alcohol with others. It is also a term used to describe the psychological and behavioural changes that occur to groups when they are under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol affects the information processing abilities of those who consume it, and group drinking exacerbates these effects. Research conducted in this area has found that groups tend to be more emotionally intense and likely to engage in risky actions when inebriated. Overall, the effects of groupdrink can be categorized as either positive or negative in their impact on group functioning.
Drinking in groups may have a positive effect when compared to drinking alone. For example, groupdrink may reduce the increased risk attraction that normally afflicts inebriated individuals. As shown by a laboratory experiment by Abrams and colleagues, individuals under the influence of alcohol displayed more risky decisions than groups who were also inebriated. They found that these groups made decisions at a slower pace, and they believed that groupdrink enhanced the likelihood of realization that the decision-making processes of the group were affected by their alcohol consumption. This realization then compelled the drunken groups to take their time and check for mistakes. Further research by Frings and colleagues supports this finding, but acknowledges that this improved decision making is only likely to occur in groups that have ingested only small amounts of alcohol, allowing the necessary diligence to occur.
Although groupdrink may reduce risky decision making for groups relative to individuals, inebriated groups may still be less risk-averse than sober groups. Sayette and colleagues provided groups with either alcohol or placebos and gave them two choices to pick from. One choice involved completing a 30-minute questionnaire, and the other involved flipping a coin that would possibly result in either no questionnaire or an hour-long one being administered. Only one sober group picked the coin flip, but 67% of the drunken groups chose this riskier option.
Groupdrink may also decrease the cooperativeness of groups. Hopthrow and colleagues gave individual participants and participant groups either an alcoholic beverage or a similar beverage with only trace amounts of alcohol. Participants were then required to play a prisoner’s dilemma game, in which they could choose to either cooperate or compete with other fake participants for real money earnings. These researchers found that groups were less cooperative with others when intoxicated than when sober. They also found that intoxicated groups chose to cooperate less frequently than intoxicated individuals, which the researchers believed to be due to the decreased ability of groups to attend to the potential long-term consequences of noncooperation.
- Forsyth, D.R. (2006). Group dynamics. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
- Sayette, M. A.; Kirchner, B. A.; Moreland, R. L.; Levine, J. M.; Travis, T. (2004). "The effects of alcohol on risk-seeking behaviour: a group-level analysis". Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. 18: 190–193.
- Abrams, D.; Hopthrow, T.; Hulbert, L. G.; Frings, D. (2006). "'Groupdrink'? The effect of alcohol on risk attraction among groups vs. individuals". Journal of Studies on Alcohol. 67: 628–636.
- Frings, D.; Hopthrow, T.; Abrams, D.; Gutierrez, R.; Hulbert, L. (2008). "Groupdrink: the effects of alcohol and group process on vigilance errors". Group Dynamics. 12 (179–190).
- Hopthrow, T.; Abrams, D.; Frings, D.; Hulbert, L. (2007). "Groupdrink: the effects of alcohol on intergroup competitiveness". Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. 21: 271–276.
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