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Alcohol intoxicated eyewitnesses’ memory of intimate partner violence

Journal article
Authors Malin Hildebrand Karlén
Emma Roos Af Hjelmsäter
Claudia Fahlke
Pär-Anders Granhag
Anna Söderpalm Gordh
Published in Psychology, Crime and Law
Volume 21
Issue 2
Pages 156-171
ISSN 1068-316X
Publication year 2015
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Psychiatry and Neurochemistry
Department of Psychology
Pages 156-171
Language en
Keywords Alcohol, Witnesses, Intimate partner violence, Memory
Subject categories Psychology, Applied Psychology


Alcohol affects memory in many, and mostly negative, ways. This is a problem in legal contexts as many witnesses are alcohol intoxicated when taking part of the critical event. However, research is sparse regarding how, and under what circumstances, the reports of alcohol intoxicated witnesses differ from those of sober witnesses. This study investigated if alcohol intoxicated and sober eyewitnesses differ regarding completeness, accuracy, and type of information reported, as well as if gender influenced these variables. Eighty-seven healthy men (n=44) and women (n=43) received either an alcoholic beverage (0.7g/kg) or a control (juice) in a laboratory setting before viewing a film picturing intimate partner violence. Ten minutes after viewing the film, they were interviewed. Reports by alcohol intoxicated women were less complete, but as accurate, as sober women’s. In contrast, intoxicated and sober men did not differ regarding completeness or accuracy. Furthermore, compared to sober women, intoxicated women reported fewer actions but no difference was found between the groups regarding reported objects. At this moderate dose, alcohol affected women’s reports more than men’s, which may be because alcohol affects attention and memory consolidation more clearly at a lower dose for women than for men.

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