Processing Bimodal Stimulus Information Under Alcohol: Is There a Risk to Being Redundant?

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5 Scopus citations


The impairing effects of alcohol are especially pronounced in environments that involve dividing attention across two or more stimuli. However, studies in cognitive psychology have identified circumstances in which the presentation of multiple stimuli can actually facilitate performance. The " redundant signal effect" (RSE) refers to the observation that individuals respond more quickly when information is presented as redundant, bimodal stimuli (e.g., aurally and visually), rather than as a single stimulus presented to either modality alone. The present study tested the hypothesis that the response facilitation attributed to RSE could reduce the degree to which alcohol slows information processing. Two experiments are reported. Experiment 1 demonstrated the validity of a reaction time model of RSE by showing that adults (N = 15) responded more quickly to redundant, bimodal stimuli (visual + aural) versus either stimuli presented individually. Experiment 2 used the RSE model to test the reaction time performance of 20 adults following three alcohol doses (0.0 g/kg, 0.45 g/kg, and 0.65 g/kg). Results showed that alcohol slowed reaction time in a general dose-dependent manner in all three stimulus conditions with the reaction time (RT) speed-advantage of the redundant signal being maintained, even under the highest dose of alcohol. Evidence for an RT advantage to bimodal stimuli under alcohol challenges the general assumption that alcohol impairment is intensified in multistimulus environments. The current study provides a useful model to investigate how drug effects on behavior might be altered in contexts that involve redundant response signals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)429-435
Number of pages7
JournalExperimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2010


  • Alcohol
  • Behavioral impairment
  • Reaction time
  • Redundant signal effect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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