The effects of alcohol on free-operant aggressive behavior

T. H. Kelly, D. R. Cherek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Although strong correlations between alcohol use and the frequency and intensity of social aggression have been observed in many populations, the relationship between these two events remains complex. Aggressive behavior is not always associated with alcohol or drug use, and substantial amounts of alcohol are consumed in social settings without the occurrence of violent or aggressive behavior. The relationship between alcohol and human aggressive behavior has been investigated using a free-operant procedure developed from the experimental tradition of behavioral pharmacology. The reliability of the free-operant procedure is evidenced by the similarity in experimental outcomes across laboratories using similar experimental procedures. Evidence for the validity of the procedure comes from recent studies with populations varying in histories of violent behavior, as well as from similarities in the outcome of studies using different experimental paradigms. Recent studies indicate clearly that both antecedent and consequent variables, such as the schedule of provocation and the response requirement for both aggressive and nonaggressive behavior, as well as the social context in which provocation occurs, influence the relationship between alcohol and aggressive behavior. The implications of the role of contextual factors for social policy regarding violence and alcohol use are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-52
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Studies on Alcohol
Issue numberSUPPL. 11
StatePublished - 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology (all)


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