The effect of blood alcohol concentration on performance in a game of risk involving industrial tasks and accidents

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

The reported study measured the effects of alcohol on risk-taking 511 a penalty/incentive system. Subjects read scenarios involving industrial tasks and accidents from a video screen. Each scenario had a point value associated with it. Subjects had to decide whether they were willing to perform the task if there was a specified probability of having an accident. They would win points for successfully performing the task, but lose points for having an accident. Their goal was to score as many points as possible. The points won were used to buy tickets for one of two $100.00 drawings. Those with the most tickets had the highest probability of winning the drawing. This motivator was used to stimulate cautious decision-making about taking risks.

Prior to participation in the task, subjects ingested a mixture of orange juice and 80-proof vodka to yield one of four BAC levels (0.00%, 0.05%, 0.07%, or 0.09%); however, alcohol was not found to affect risk-taking in this study. The concept of risk compensation is used to assist in the interpretation of the results.

Prior to discussion of the methodology and results of the current study, the literature on the Theory of Risk Homeostasis and on the effect of alcohol on industrial tasks is given to show how this study fits into the spectrum of research. Lastly, recommendations are given for various considerations in conducting research on risk-taking and alcohol.