The effects of alcohol intoxication on attention and memory for visual scenes

Alistair J. Harvey, Wendy Kneller, Alison C. Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study tests the claim that alcohol intoxication narrows the focus of visual attention on to the more salient features of a visual scene. A group of alcohol intoxicated and sober participants had their eye movements recorded as they encoded a photographic image featuring a central event of either high or low salience. All participants then recalled the details of the image the following day when sober. We sought to determine whether the alcohol group would pay less attention to the peripheral features of the encoded scene than their sober counterparts, whether this effect of attentional narrowing was stronger for the high-salience event than for the low-salience event, and whether it would lead to a corresponding deficit in peripheral recall. Alcohol was found to narrow the focus of foveal attention to the central features of both images but did not facilitate recall from this region. It also reduced the overall amount of information accurately recalled from each scene. These findings demonstrate that the concept of alcohol myopia originally posited to explain the social consequences of intoxication (Steele & Josephs, 1990) may be extended to explain the relative neglect of peripheral information during the processing of visual scenes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)969-980
Issue number8
Early online date22 Feb 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2013
Externally publishedYes


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