Observing Alcohol Myopia in the Context of a Trauma Film Paradigm: Differential Recall of Central and Peripheral Details

Anna E. Jaffe, Christina M. Harris, David DiLillo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: A major tenet of the alcohol myopia model is that intoxication results in a narrowing of attention to the most central environmental cues, at the cost of more peripheral information. Though long hypothesized, no known study of alcohol myopia has demonstrated differential immediate recall of central and peripheral cues using a standardized task. To address this gap, we conducted an alcohol administration study with a clear, standardized focus—a trauma film. Methods: Ninety-eight female social drinkers completed self-report measures, and then were randomized to consume a placebo beverage, a low dose of alcohol (mean breath alcohol concentration [BrAC] = 0.04%), or a high dose of alcohol (mean BrAC = 0.11%). Participants then moved to a staged room where they viewed a film clip depicting a sexual assault. After leaving the room, participants completed a written free recall task of the film and the room. Results: The distinction between recall of central and peripheral details was supported by confirmatory factor analysis. Consistent with the alcohol myopia model, relative to placebo, a high dose of alcohol led to impaired recall of peripheral (but not central) details. Although the interaction between BrAC and information type (central vs. peripheral) was not statistically significant, simple effects revealed a strong association between BrAC and peripheral information, and no association between BrAC and central information. Bolstering myopia as an explanation for our findings, neither central nor peripheral information correlated with self-reported tendencies to dissociate or distract oneself, or typical alcohol consumption or expectancies. Conclusions: Alcohol myopia can be observed through an immediate free recall task following a stressful film. Additional research is needed to continue evaluating dose-dependent differential recall in larger samples. This task may be useful for clarifying the role of alcohol myopia in clinical phenomena, such as aggressive behavior and processing traumatic events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2203-2211
Number of pages9
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019


  • Acute Alcohol Intoxication
  • Attention Allocation Model
  • Dose-Dependent
  • Intoxicated Eyewitness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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