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Safety in numbers: Moderate drinking in a group reduces attraction to risk
Date:5/22/2014

Our previous research, which had been conducted in laboratory conditions, showed that effects of alcohol consumption that affect people drinking alone, such as becoming riskier, are reduced or eliminated when people make judgements together with other drinkers in a group. We wanted to establish whether this would hold true in real drinking situations outside the laboratory, such as a bar or concert, where there are many other influences at work.

'Our findings showed that, even in these natural settings, social interaction in groups can reduce the tendency of individual drinkers to accept risks. Alcohol consumers accepted more risk when deciding alone but the least risk when deciding as a group. We think that this is because drinkers in groups monitor one another closely, becoming more cautious when directly asked whether to take a risk.'

The research, titled Drinking in social groups: does 'groupdrink' provide safety in numbers when deciding about risk?, is published in the journal Addiction. The research team comprised: Dr Tim Hopthrow, Dr Georgina Randsley de Moura, Professor Dominic Abrams and Dr Hannah Swift of the Centre for the Study of Group Processes, School of Psychology at the University of Kent, and Dr Rose Meleady, of the School of Psychology at the University of East Anglia.

Dr Meleady said: 'We know that individuals are more likely to engage in risky behaviour when they are intoxicated, whether it be having unprotected sex, or engaging in violent or other criminal activity. This research demonstrates that drinking as part of a social group may mitigate the effects of alcohol consumption on risk-taking.

'Rather than seeing groups as part of the problem, we need to see them as part of the solution. Groups over-compensate for alcohol consumption in the face of risk. When drinking moderately, there may be safety in numbers.
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Contact: Martin Herrema
M.J.Herrema@kent.ac.uk
01-227-823-581
University of Kent
Source:Eurekalert

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