Alcohol, Violence and Aggressive Individuals

alcohol and violencePart of the awesomeness of being human is the diversity of our personalities. Put another way, different people act differently. We act differently from each other in all situations: at work, at play, when we’re tired, when we’re cranky, and when we’re drunk!

There are some standard effects of being drunk but many will agree that there are different types of drunks too. Most of these ‘types’ are harmless but most everyone that has been in a bar has encountered the aggressive drunk.

Why are some people more prone to being violent when they drink? Is there something measurable; something predictable? It turns out, it seems there is.

Consideration of Future Consequences

The Consideration of Future Consequences scale (CFC) attempts to measure a person’s ability to consider future consequences of an action taken now. People that score lower on the CFC test are less able to consider the consequences of their actions. Probably not surprising, aggressive individuals tend to score lower on the CFC Scale.

Alcohol and Consideration of Future Consequences

One of alcohol’s trademark effects is that it reduces people’s ability to make intelligent decisions. People under the influence of alcohol tend to act without thinking. In other words, they tend not to consider the consequences of their actions.

The Study

To test whether certain people were more prone to being aggressive while under the influence of alcohol, Bushman, Giancola, Parott and Roth wanted to test if individuals with low CFC scores were more aggressive while under the influence of alcohol.[1]

A random group of individuals were measured on the CFC scale and then broken into two groups, either drinking a placebo drink or an alcoholic drink. Participants were then subjected to a inter-personally adversarial competitive task. This tasks pits two individuals against each other, with the winner allowed to administer an uncomfortable but otherwise harmless shock to the loser. The nature of the reward allows psychologists to measure a certain level of aggression.

The Results

The results showed that individuals who drank alcohol were more aggressive than those who were not and those with lower CFC scores were more aggressive than those with higher CFC scores. The most aggressive group were individuals with low CFC scores who drank alcohol.


As with many psychology studies, the tested population was limited to young college students. Having said this, the study seems to make it clear that individuals with traits that often lead to a more-aggressive personalities (low CFC scores) in combination with alcohol, tend to lead to more aggressive behavior.

What’s this mean? It’s probably not an illusion that some people are more aggressive than others while drunk. Furthermore, I’m sure you can think of one or two people that fit that bill that also have troubles making wise decisions even while sober.

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