Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Previous studies have shown that the effects of alcoholic intoxication on memory result from a functional decrease in capacity of working memory (e.g., Petros, Kerbel, Beckwith, Sacks, & Sarafolean, 1985). However, other studies looking at speeds of retrieval of information from long-term memory have brought this conclusion into doubt (Moskowitz & Roth, 1971). The present study presented subjects with decisions to be made regarding word pairs. Three conditions were used, each requiring different amounts of information to be accessed from long-term memory.

Sixty-six male college students, between the ages of 21 and 29 years, were divided into two groups. One group received one milliliter of absolute alcohol per kilogram of body weight in the form of 80 proof vodka mixed with a peppermint masking solution. The second group received an equivalent amount of water mixed in the same masking solution. Subjects were further divided into higher and lower verbal ability groups on the basis of their raw scores on the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised Vocabulary subtest.

Subjects were presented with word pairs and asked to make yes/no decisions as to whether the words were physically identical (PI), the same name (SN), or from the same semantic category (SC). Response times and accuracy of response was automatically recorded by computer.

Two (treatment) x two (verbal ability) x three (decision type) x two (response type) mixed ANOVAs were run on median response times, as well as proportion of errors made. No significant differences were found for treatment effects (alcohol, placebo), but interaction between treatment effects and other factors limiting functional capacity of working memory were found. General support was found for the theory that alcoholic intoxication results in a decreased functional capacity in working memory. Specifically, the speed of the working memory process of accessing information from long-term memory was found to be slowed.

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