It is widely assumed that the consumption of alcohol inevitably causes significant societal serious social issues. In the United Kingdom, 48% of violent crimes (Home Office, 2006) and 21,000 accident and emergency admissions (Department of Health, 2004) are associated with alcohol.

Whereas it is known that alcohol impairs individuals’ ability to sustain vigilance, it is not known whether comparable effects will be found in groups.

The research literature tends to focus more on the negative impacts of alcohol, mainly at individual level. Indeed, alcohol can foster violence, sexual impulsivity and certain forms of risk taking. It is detrimental for tasks that require sustained attention and vigilance.

But we should acknowledge that alcohol can facilitate social interactions by reducing social anxiety and easing communication, with an improvement in social bonding when groups are forming.

Daniel Frings and coworkers have investigated the effects of moderate consumption of alcohol at individual level and at group level on a cumulative quantity estimation task requiring vigilance. Alcohol reduced individuals’ accuracy but had a not a significant effect on group’s decisions. Our findings suggest that group membership can offset the impairing effects of alcohol on quantity estimation judgments.

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