Drinking in social groups. Does ‘groupdrink’ provide safety in numbers when deciding about risk?

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To investigate the impact of alcohol consumption on risk decisions taken both individually and while part of a four- to six-person ad-hoc group.


A 2 (alcohol: consuming versus not consuming alcohol) × 2 (decision: individual, group) mixed-model design; decision was a repeated measure. The dependent variable was risk preference, measured using choice dilemmas.


Opportunity sampling in campus bars and a music event at a campus-based university in the United Kingdom.


A total of 101 individuals were recruited from groups of four to six people who either were or were not consuming alcohol.


Participants privately opted for a level of risk in response to a choice dilemma and then, as a group, responded to a second choice dilemma. The choice dilemmas asked participants the level of accident risk at which they would recommend someone could drive while intoxicated.


Five three-level multi-level models were specified in the software program HLM 7. Decisions made in groups were less risky than those made individually (B = −0.73, P < 0.001). Individual alcohol consumers opted for higher risk than non-consumers (B = 1.27, P = 0.025). A significant alcohol × decision interaction (B = −2.79, P = 0.001) showed that individual consumers privately opted for higher risk than non-consumers, whereas risk judgements made in groups of either consumers or non-consumers were lower. Decisions made by groups of consumers were less risky than those made by groups of non-consumers (B = 1.23, P < 0.001).


Moderate alcohol consumption appears to produce a propensity among individuals towards increased risk-taking in deciding to drive while intoxicated, which can be mitigated by group monitoring processes within small (four- to six-person) groups.

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