Alcohol has profound effects on emotion and behavior. These effects are both “prized and dangerous”, motivating drinking and causing the many deleterious effects associated with intoxication. Seminal theory (Steele & Josephs, 1990) implicated abnormalities in attentional function resulting from impaired cognitive control based on review of self-report and behavioral findings. Using contemporary methods from cognitive and affective neuroscience, we have provided direct evidence that both stress response dampening and behavioral dysregulation caused by alcohol emerge from impaired selective attention that leads to poor cognitive control of behavior. These findings have important implications for policy and prevention efforts aimed at harm reduction (e.g., drunk driving; sexual assault and disease transmission; intoxicated aggression) by managing the environments within which we drink.
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