Smell of alcohol ‘impedes self control’

People exposed to the smell of alcohol are less likely to maintain their self-control because the aroma is too distracting to focus on a task, new research has concluded.


Just the smell of a good wine is too tempting to ignore, according to the study (Photo: Wiki)

Scientists at Edge Hill University carried out a study looking at the behaviour of participants exposed to the smell of alcohol, compared to those that aren’t.

To test the difference in their reactions, participants were asked to wear a face mask that was either laced with alcohol or non-alcoholic citrus solution.

Participants were then instructed to press a button when either the letter K or a picture of a beer bottle appeared on their screen. Researchers concluded that the smell of alcohol made it harder for people to control their behaviour, with those wearing an alcohol-soaked face mask less able to press the button at the appropriate time, recording a greater number of incorrect ‘false alarms’.

“We know that alcohol behaviours are shaped by our environment including who we’re with and the settings in which we drink”, said Dr Rebecca Monk, senior lecturer in psychology at Edge Hill University.

“This research is a first attempt to explore other triggers, such as smell, that may interfere with people’s ability to refrain from a particular behaviour. For example, during the experiment it seemed that just the smell of alcohol was making it harder for participants to control their behaviour to stop pressing a button.”

Fellow researcher and Edge Hill Professor, Derek Heim hopes that the study could pace the way for further studies to greater understand the power of smell in controlling and preventing addiction and substance abuse.

“Our hope is that by increasing our understanding of how context shapes substance-use behaviours, we will be able to make interventions more sensitive to the different situations in which people consume substances.”

The team’s findings were published today in the Psychopharmacology journal.

One Response to “Smell of alcohol ‘impedes self control’”

  1. observer says:

    Interesting research. If alcohol smellled like sick, people would still drink it for the effect, If citrus made us drunk, and our society had been falling over in the street from drinking it for generations, the same result would surely occur. People are just conditioned to the smell of alcohol and therefore develop these associations with it.

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