Alcohol consumption often happens in social contexts. A new study reviews the effect of alcohol on the facial expression of emotions in social drinkers. The results, published in the scientific journal Psychology Research and Behavior Management, show that the extent of social interaction appears to be an important factor.
What is already known? Alcohol is strongly linked to social events and social interaction. Previous studies have indicated that alcohol can affect emotions. Depending on the social context, this can be both positive and negative.
What does this study add? This study is the first to systematically review the effect of alcohol on facial expression of emotions in social drinkers.
Effect of alcohol
Alcohol consumption can affect both emotional state and the (facial) expression of emotions. For example, alcohol intake increases pleasurable moods and euphoria but also self-reported anger. Meanwhile alcohol decreases self-reported stress and anxiety, and it attenuates the startle response to unpleasant stimuli.
Regarding the expression of emotions, alcohol is known to deteriorate motor abilities, which could influence the actual expression of emotions.
Moreover, alcohol might increase nonverbal behaviour by counteracting the inhibitory effect of social rules or reducing the perceived necessity to comply with them1.
Level of social interaction
The current study included 13 intervention studies with mainly social drinkers under 35 years of age. Results indicate that alcohol intake affects both positive and negative emotions with social interaction being an important factor.
In situations with low levels of social interaction, alcohol appears to increase facial expression of negative emotions. In moderate levels of social interaction, alcohol has no effect on expression of positive emotions while decreasing facial expression of negative emotions. And for high levels of social interaction, moderate alcohol intake affects both positive and negative facial expressions in a social desirable way1.
- First study to review effects of alcohol on facial expression of emotions.
- Clear differences in facial expressions between men and women are difficult to investigate.
- Alcohol effects on facial expression of pain and sadness have not been investigated.