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Acute alcohol effects on risky sexual decision making

Laura Hatz
University of Missouri ~ Psychological Sciences
Denis McCarthy
University of Missouri, United States of America
Prof. Clintin Davis-Stober
University of Missouri ~ Psychological Science

In previous studies, we tested properties of sexual decision making using a novel sexual gambles task in which participants made repeated choices between hypothetical sexual partners based on physical attractiveness and risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI). We found that the vast majority of participants (~98%) used a rational, compensatory strategy when choosing between partners and that between-subject variability in choice behavior was associated with sexual attitudes and behaviors (Hatz et al., in press). In the present study, we tested whether this pattern of results would hold under acute alcohol intoxication, a manipulation known to impact cognitive processing abilities. Young adult moderate drinkers (N=44) were recruited from a large Midwestern university and surrounding community to participate in a double-blind, within-subjects laboratory alcohol administration study consisting of counterbalanced alcohol (target peak BrAC=0.10 g%) and placebo sessions. Participants completed the sexual gambles task at matched points (BrAC =~ .080%) on the ascending and descending limbs of intoxication in the alcohol session and at approximately matched points in the placebo session. We used Bayesian model selection to test whether participants used a compensatory (i.e., a numerical utility representation) or non-compensatory decision making strategy on the task. We then used a p-median clustering algorithm (Brown et al., 2016) to identify between-subject variability in choice behavior. In a replication of our previous findings, nearly all participants used a compensatory strategy when making sexual decisions, regardless of beverage condition or limb of intoxication. Results and implications will be discussed.



decision making
choice modeling
random preference


Decision Making
Bayesian Modeling

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Cite this as:

Hatz, L., McCarthy, D., & Davis-Stober, C. (2020, July). Acute alcohol effects on risky sexual decision making. Paper presented at Virtual MathPsych/ICCM 2020. Via