Alcohol intoxication is linked to impairments in the ability to interpret other people’s facial expressions, especially in men, according to a new study. The findings may help explain why alcohol use is often associated with harmful interpersonal and social consequences, such as physical aggression, intimate partner violence, sexual assault, or being victimized. Heavy drinking is known to have the potential to disrupt the recognition of facial expressions, leading to misinterpretation. This may in turn contribute to inappropriate behaviors. Identifying the social processing mechanisms influenced by alcohol may inform interventions designed to reduce these negative outcomes. Previous laboratory studies of alcohol use and emotion processing have had mixed findings, however, and the roles of gender and naturalistic settings have not been investigated. For the study in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, investigators explored the influence of alcohol intoxication on recognizing facial emotions in a real-world setting, involving men and women across a wide range of intoxication levels.
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