To Drink or Not to Drink: An Experimental Analysis of the Process of Group Drinking Decisions by Alcoholics

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This paper explores the power of the group to influence the initiation, maintenance, and termination of a given episode of group drinking by alcoholics. The study was undertaken to establish the parameters, within a controlled laboratory setting, of the various effects of group decision making on the social, affective, and drinking behavior of the members of that group. The subjects in this research were four white males who had been "therapeutic failures" in New Jersey State Facilities. Data were gathered by (1) consumption measures; (2) observational and self-reporting instruments; and (3) physical and physiological measures. Because the subjects' drinking behavior was altered significantly both by a differential reinforcement and by decision-making, the authors conclude that: (1) social influence was a powerful determinant of alcohol consumption; (2) social and economic controls did alter the subjects' behavior after they started drinking; and (3) treatment implications emerge indicating that total abstinence from alcohol might not be as effective as therapeutically modulated, controlled drinking.

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American Journal of Psychiatry, v. 131, p. 1123-1130