The influence of alcohol and cognitive capacity on visual number judgements

Alistair Harvey, Molly Seedhouse

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Abstract

We used an enumeration task to address the question of whether acute alcohol intoxication reduces cognitive or perceptual capacity. To control for individual differences in cognitive resources we took a sober record of each participant’s working memory capacity (WMC). Alcohol was expected to impair enumeration accuracy, either for the automatic parallel counting of small stimulus sets indicating a perceptual impairment, or the controlled counting or estimating of larger sets indicating a cognitive impairment. Enumeration performance showed an overall decline in accuracy following a vodka beverage and the deficit was negligible for small sets, which is inconsistent with a loss of perceptual capacity. Having a higher WMC facilitated the enumeration of larger sets and the correlation between WMC and accuracy was stronger in the alcohol condition suggesting that low-WMC participants were more impaired by the beverage. Our findings therefore suggest that alcohol diminished cognitive rather than perceptual capacity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-51
Number of pages13
JournalPerception
Volume50
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jan 2021

Keywords

  • acute alcohol
  • intoxication
  • visual attention
  • working memory capacity
  • operation span
  • perceptual capacity
  • enumeration
  • subitising

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