Sensitivity to the Disinhibiting Effect of Alcohol: The Role of Trait Impulsivity and Sex Differences

Holley C. Allen, Michael J. Wesley, Jessica Weafer, Mark T. Fillmore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objective: Higher trait impulsivity is associated with more impulsive responding on certain behavioral measures of disinhibition. Additionally, behavioral disinhibition is acutely elevated following alcohol consumption. The present study examined the possibility that trait impulsivity may predict individual differences in sensitivity to the disinhibiting effect of alcohol. Specifically, the present study tested the hypothesis that those with elevated trait impulsivity also experience heightened sensitivity to the disinhibiting effect of alcohol, which might further compound their tendency toward impulsive action. Method: To test this hypothesis, data from six studies were aggregated to comprise a sample of 190 young adults. Participants completed the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale-11 (BIS-11), and behavioral disinhibition was assessed using a cued go/no-go task following consumption of 0.65 g/kg alcohol and a placebo. Results: Alcohol increased disinhibition overall, but higher impulsivity did not predict increased sensitivity to alcohol-induced disinhibition. In men, higher levels of trait impulsivity predicted heightened disinhibition in the unintoxicated state following placebo, but this relationship was not present in women. Conclusions: These findings suggest significant sex differences in the relationship between trait impulsivity and disinhibition. This sex difference may explain inconsistent research findings in studies assessing links between trait and behavioral measures of impulsivity. The data also point to trait impulsivity and sensitivity to alcohol-induced disinhibition as independent constructs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1048-1058
Number of pages11
JournalPsychology of Addictive Behaviors
Issue number8
StatePublished - May 5 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 American Psychological Association


  • Alcohol sensitivity
  • Behavioral disinhibition
  • Cued go/no-go
  • Impulsivity
  • Sex differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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