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Does alcohol loosen the tongue? Intoxicated persons' willingness to report transgressions or criminal behavior carried out by themselves or others

Journal article
Authors Amelia Mindthoff
Angelica Hagsand
Nadja Schreiber Compo
Jacqueline Evans
Published in Applied Cognitive Psychology
Volume 33
Issue 3
Pages 414-425
ISSN 0888-4080
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Psychology
Pages 414-425
Language en
Keywords alcohol, intoxication, transgression, criminal, disclosure
Subject categories Applied Psychology, Law


Police commonly interview intoxicated suspects. This is concerning because intoxication often leads to a higher risk for impulsive decision-making, and reduces inhibition and consideration of the future. However, the manner in which intoxication affects people’s reporting of unethical or criminal actions carried out by themselves or others is unknown, and was thus addressed in the current study. Participants (N = 116) were randomly assigned to one of six conditions based on a 2 (transgression: self, other) x 3 (alcohol condition: low-to-moderate intoxication, placebo, sober-control) between-participants design. After drinking their assigned beverages, participants were asked to disclose a transgression. No main effect of alcohol emerged. However, the odds that participants would report a transgression were significantly higher if they were asked to report a personal, rather than other’s, transgression. Thus, low-to-moderate intoxication did not increase the likelihood of people disclosing sensitive information in this initial study, but additional research is needed.

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