Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. Thomas Petros


The present study investigated the performance of chronic alcohol abusers and controls on attention, memory, cognition, and emotion from a hemispheric laterality perspective. The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between these variables and their role in processing of experiences. Measures which are believed to be predominantly a function of the right hemisphere were explored in some depth.

The subjects in the experimental group were chronic alcohol abusers recently admitted to an inpatient addiction facility. The subjects in the control group were volunteers from the community who d1d not have any significant alcohol problem. Only right-handed males were used as subjects. The subjects in the experimental group were matched with controls on age and years of education. Their ages ranged from 21 to 63 years.

The chronic alcohol abusers differed significantly from controls on cognitive and personality measures, primarily, with other significant differences on memory subtest performance. Chronic abusers showed deficits in abstracting, sequencing, and general memory functioning. They also presented themselves significantly differently than controls on personality characteristics measured by the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. Though the chronic abusers did not fit typical personality profile types that other investigators have described, the chronic abusers reported more depression, anger, anxiety, physical complaints and irritability than did controls. Controls, however, were somewhat guarded.

There were no significant differences between groups on attentional bias measures, even those right lateralized, or on emotive imagery. Additionally, the more depressed alcohol abusers did not perform differently than those less depressed on right lateralized tasks. The chronic abusers with extensive drinking histories did not show visuospatial performance deficits as had been hypothesized. Also contrary to prediction, chronic abusers were not significantly defensive on personality measures as compared to controls. This investigation did provide evidence for the effects of alcohol upon specific cognitive, memory and affective features and did suggest that the detoxification process extends longer than once believed.