Stress-response-dampening effects of alcohol: Attention as a mediator and moderator

Kenneth J. Sher, Bruce D. Bartholow, Karl Peuser, Darin J. Erickson, Mark D. Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


The present study sought to characterize alcohol's stress-response- dampening (SRD) effects on multiple measures of stress and whether these effects are mediated by reductions in sustained attention and, further, whether baseline levels of sustained attention moderate SRD. One hundred six men consumed either an alcohol (0.70 g/kg) or a placebo beverage prior to learning that they would deliver a self-disclosing speech. Structural equation models controlling for multiple baseline periods indicated that alcohol directly reduced self-reported anxiety and skin conductance levels in response to the stressor. Alcohol's effect on reducing heart rate response, in contrast, was indirect and mediated by effects on prestress baseline. As hypothesized, differences in sustained attention partially mediated the effects of alcohol on skin conductance (but not heart rate or self-reported anxiety) and served as a moderator of alcohol's effects on skin conductance response. Findings are discussed in terms of theoretical links among alcohol consumption, specific cognitive abilities, and stress reactivity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)362-377
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of abnormal psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2007


  • Alcohol
  • Anxiety
  • Autonomic activity
  • Emotion
  • Stress
  • Sustained attention


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