The acute effects of alcohol administration on autonoetic consciousness: A placebo-control trial

First published: 30 March 2019 | Last updated: 20 May 2019

Ms Natalia Romeo Samo

Natalia has recently completed her studies at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London, with an MSc in Neuroscience. She also holds a BSc in Psychology (Bournemouth University). Her research interests include Cognitive Psychology, Addiction Biology and Neuropsychology of mental health. Her future aspirations are to continue with research and clinical work within psychology, and to become a chartered psychologist.

Background: Autonoetic consciousness is a component of episodic memory which involves the ability to mentally travel back and forward in time, mentally representing personal events and re- or pre-experiencing them. Autonoetic consciousness relating to re-experiencing past events has been found to be negatively affected by alcohol, both chronically and acutely. However, the effects of acute alcohol on the ability to pre-experience future events are yet to be explored.

Aim: The current study aimed to determine whether acute alcohol consumption has an effect on future imagining of personally experienced events.

Methods: A moderate dose of 0.06g/kg beer was administered in a single-blind placebo control trial to fifteen participants, all of whom were non-dependent regular social drinkers aged 18-30 years. Participants were tested using the Crovitz-Schiffman cue-word technique in which they wrote about several personal future experiences, each for three minutes, and then completed a self-report questionnaire (Johnson et al.’s, 1987, Memory Characteristics Questionnaire, MCQ) probing the extent to which they pre-experienced the subjective qualities of the imagined event.

Results: No significant differences were found between Alcohol and Placebo groups on the Crovitz- Schiffman tasks. An adaptation of the Memory Characteristics Questionnaire to a future imagined event showed no correlation with task performance on the Crovitz-Schiffman task. The MCQ probing past memories showed no significant correlation with past memory recall, and the MCQ for future imagining showed no significant correlation with the future-adapted Memory Characteristics Questionnaire.

Conclusions: The lack of an acute effect of alcohol on autonoetic consciousness in terms of mental future projection is inconsistent with previous research regarding the properties of autonoetic consciousness, and also the effects of alcohol on autonoetic consciousness. Further research using a higher dosage of alcohol, a larger sample size, and a revised adaption of the Crovitz-Schiffman technique is recommended in order to establish clearer results.


Natalia Romeo Samo, Kyle R. Dyer, Kim Donoghue Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London, UK & James H. Smith-Spark Division of Psychology, School of Applied Sciences, London South Bank University, UK

Conflicts of interest:



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