Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




The present study investigated the effects of acute intoxication with ethanol on prose processing. Three groups of subjects were studied: males, females taking oral contraceptives, and females not taking oral contraceptives. Subjects were administered either 0.0 or 1.0 milliliter per kilogram of body weight of ethanol, and then read two long (400 words) and two short (200 words) expository prose passages from a computer screen. Immediately after reading each passage, subjects orally recalled the passages.

Overall, intoxicated subjects encoded prose passages significantly slower and recalled significantly less information from the passages than the sober subjects, and this difference could not be attributed to differences among groups in short-term memory span. The results indicated that acute intoxication with ethanol impairs the efficiency of prose processing even when subjects were permitted to encode the material at their own rate.

Furthermore, male subjects generally spent more time encoding the text than females. In addition, females taking oral contraceptives had significantly longer reading times than females not taking oral contraceptives. Possible explanations for this include psychophysiological factors, male-female differences in ability to process verbal materials, or differing sensitivity to demand characteristics. Interestingly, although there was no gender difference in the amount of information recalled when sober, intoxicated males recalled more than either group of intoxicated females, suggesting that they benefited from the increased time spent encoding the passages. Several reasons were proposed for the observed difference in reaction to acute intoxication between male and female subjects, including neuroendocrine processes.

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