Tsurugizawa, T.,Tokuda, S., Harada, T., Takahashi, T., & Sadato, N. (2016). Pharmacological and expectancy effects of a low amount of alcohol drinking on outcome valuation and risk perception in males and females. PloS one, 11, 4, e0154083.


The high-dose, alcohol-induced influences on risk perception and loss aversion depend on sex. On the other hand, low-dose alcohol has less effect on risky behavior. However, the effect of low-dose alcohol on subjective valuation of gain or loss and also the effect of placebo (expectancy of alcohol) on risk perception have not been fully investigated. We investigated the effects of low-dose alcohol (0.02 g/100 ml blood alcohol concentration) and placebo effects on subjective risk perception and subjective valuation of uncertain gain and loss in females and males. Participants in the control group and the placebo group were served alcohol-free, wine-flavored beverage and participants of alcohol group were served wine (14% alcohol). The placebo group was not informed that the drink was not alcohol but the control group was informed. Then paper–pencil tasks for subjective risk perception and valuation of gain or loss were performed 45 min after drinking the beverage. The participants were asked to draw the line on a 180 mm scale for each question. The placebo effects as well as the low-dose alcohol effects were observed in subjective valuations of gain or loss. Except for effect of beverages, a gender difference was also observed for subjective likelihood. The females estimated a low-probability loss as more likely and estimated a high-probability gain as less likely than did the males. From the Stevens’ law fitting analysis, the placebo, not alcohol, significantly induced the psychophysical effect of the subjective valuation of gain or loss. These results indicate that the psychological effects of expectancy of alcohol (placebo) could be a major factor in changing the subjective valuation of gain or loss over the pharmacological effects of a small amount of alcohol (like a glass of wine). Furthermore, these results also indicate that gender differences should be taken into account when investigating pharmacological or psychological effect on decision-making.

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