Effects of Drinking on Memory

Alcohol consumption is an evident epidemic among today’s vast society, and overwhelming evidence from past research supports the idea that alcohol intoxication has observable effects on memory (Kirchner & Sayette, 2003; Parker, Birnbaum, & Noble, 1976; Tracy & Bates, 1999). There is a common aspect about memory which is discussed within these experiments. Mainly, all three experimental procedures directly identify two important affected phases of memory, “learning” and “recalling”.

Research by both Kirchner & Sayette (2003) and Tracy & Bates (1999) respectively studied the combination of effects on “Controlled and Automatic” memory and “Automatic and Effortful” memory, by alcohol. Although the two different experiments used different words to describe the aspects of memory they were studying, it turns out that they were both regarding the same thing. The “controlled” phase from Kirchner & Sayette (2003), along with the “effortful” phase from Tracy & Bates (1999) both refer to the “learning” phase of memory.

By the “learning” phase they refer to the slower more effortful processes which are subject to conscious awareness (Kirchner & Sayette, 2003; Tracy & Bates, 1999) for example the practice or studying (learning) of examinable material. The “automatic” phase parallel in both experiments refers oppositely to the effortless, unintentional uncontrolled processes which occur without awareness. “Learning” processes become automatic with practice and experience.

Both experiments used doses of alcohol as the independent variable which involved manipulation in the amount administered. These research designs accounted for the affects for both the automatic processes and the effortful memory processes. This research came to the conclusion that both of these processes of memory are affected by intoxication; however the effortful “learning” phase is more affected than the automatic phase. Research by Parker, Birnbaum & Noble (1976) also identified the same phases of the dependent variable of memory previously discussed.

This research however unlike that of Kirchner & Sayette, 2003 and Tracy & Bates, 1999 focussed its attention on alcohol’s effects on the “storage” phase of memory. Parker, Birnbaum & Noble the term ‘storage’ to represent the “learning” phase of memory. As described earlier, although the different researchers use different vocabulary to describe their variables, they are discussing the same factor. Alcohol dosage was the independent variable within this experiment and included high level, low level, and placebo, conditions.

After carrying out their experimental procedure they proved their hypothesis to be correct in that there would be negative effects on efficiency in mastering material while under the influence of alcohol. Not only does this past research lay out the basic format of my research but it also provides critical insight to my present research. The previous research discusses and attempts to identify relationships between the same principle correlations covered within my research (i. e. affect of alcohol on memory).

My present experiment like Parker, Birnbaum & Noble is focussed on the “learning” phase of memory. However, the new design contains the addition of a psychological aspect which may play a roll in the effects on memory. Experimental Design My particular experimental research will not only try to provide further evidence and support to previous findings, but also attempt to distinguish between the presence of psychological effects of intoxication and the chemical effects of alcohol or a mixture of the two.

The independent variable, as in previous research, will be whether or not alcohol is ingested. However, a second independent variable, being told you are either given alcohol or not given alcohol, will broaden the causality within the experimental results. By introducing this second independent variable of manipulation, four different independent variable conditions become apparent. The first condition would be to expect alcohol and to receive alcohol. This would replicate real life situations where people who are drinking expect to receive alcohol.

Any results obtained from this group could reflect both psychological expectancy and true chemical effects of alcohol on memory. The second possible condition would be to expect to receive alcohol but receive no alcohol. This particular condition would provide incite regarding the effects of participator expectancies on their performance on a memory test. The third condition (not expecting to receive alcohol and receiving alcohol) would provide evidence of only the chemical effects of alcohol on the learning phase of memory.

The last independent variable condition, the control group, would be that in which participants believed they were not receiving alcohol and did not receive alcohol. After receiving the independent variable treatment, each subject from each independent variable group will then be given identical study material from which they will be responsible for remembering information. Results from administered tests on the study material will then provide critical incite to the effects of different variations of the independent variable on the dependent variable of memory.

The measure of memory efficiency will be recorded, as previously explained, by calculating the scores from administered tests of the study material. In general, from past experimental data (Kirchner & Sayette, 2003; Parker, Birnbaum, & Noble, 1976; Passer & Smith, 2001; Tracy & Bates, 1999) it is expected that as a result of alcohol consumption, performance on the given memory test will suffer. I expect that group one (expect alcohol/receive alcohol) will exhibit the greatest degradation in performance.

The group which expects to receive alcohol but does not, should not exhibit any loss in performance since memory, I believe, should not be affected by psychological stimuli. The group which is told they are not receiving alcohol but is administered a dose, will show losses in performance comparable to those in group one. Group four should theoretically have highest average scores for the memory test since past experimental data has shown a negative correlation between alcohol consumption and memory.

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