Allocating Under the Influence: Effects of Alcohol Intoxication and Social Identification on In-Group Favoritism

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The “social lubrication” function of alcohol during interpersonal interactions is well documented. However, less is known about the effects of alcohol consumption on group-level behavior. Empirical findings from social psychological literature suggest that individuals tend to favor those who are considered as members of their own social group. Not yet evaluated is how alcohol intoxication interacts with this group-level bias. Therefore, the current study examined experimentally the effects of intoxication on group bias. Ninety-four individuals (Mage = 20.18, SD = 2.36, 55 women, 39 men) were randomly assigned to consume an alcoholic (n = 48) or a placebo (n = 46) drink before completing manipulated allocation matrices, a task which measured the distribution of hypothetical monetary awards based on social groups. Results point to an interaction between drink condition and social group identification, whereby identification was significantly associated with in-group favoritism among intoxicated individuals only. Following alcohol consumption, participants with higher identification with their social group were more likely to demonstrate allocation strategies that favored their own group members. However, nonsignificant effects were observed for those in the placebo condition. The findings highlight how alcohol intoxication may facilitate group bias that results from social group identification.

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