London | The smell of alcohol may make it harder for people to control their behaviour, a new study suggests. Researchers from Edge Hill University in the UK carried out a computer-based study. Participants were asked to wear a face mask that was either laced with alcohol, or a non-alcoholic citrus solution. They were then instructed to press a button when either the letter K or a picture of a beer bottle appeared on their screen.
Researchers measured the number of times the participants incorrectly pressed the button causing a ‘false alarm’. These false alarms indicate a reduction in the participant’s power to inhibit their behaviour when they were expected to. They found the number of these ‘false alarms’ were higher in participants who were wearing the alcohol treated mask. We know that alcohol behaviours are shaped by our environment including who we are with and the settings in which we drink, said Rebecca Monk from Edge Hill University.
This research is a first attempt to explore other triggers, such as smell, that may interfere with people’s ability to refrain from a particular behaviour, Monk said. For example, during the experiment it seemed that just the smell of alcohol was making it harder for participants to control their behaviour to stop pressing a button, she added.
Studies of this nature could further our understanding of addiction and substance abuse, researchers said. Our hope is that by increasing our understanding of how context shapes substance-use behaviours, we will be able to make interventions more sensitive to the different situations in which people consume substances, said Derek Heim from Edge Hill University.
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