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J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2009 Nov;70(6):964-70.

Have I had one drink too many? Assessing gender differences in misperceptions of intoxication among college students.

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Prevention Research Center, Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA 16801, USA.



The present study extends the literature on factors involved in college students' drinking tendencies by examining differences between men and women in their ability to accurately estimate personal intoxication. The study also assessed whether men and women who typically consume large quantities of alcohol when they attend parties have more difficulty accurately assessing intoxication compared with lighter drinkers.


The research used the external cueing approach (ECA) of Turrisi and colleagues as the informational paradigm to examine 3,707 college students' gender, typical drinking at parties, and how they relate to perceptions of intoxication.


The study revealed that approximately 20% (n = 710) of participants underestimated their blood alcohol concentration using the ECA. Among participants who made underestimation errors, gender differences were observed in that women made significantly more underestimation errors in the scenarios that contained four to five drinks and men made more underestimation errors in the scenarios that contained six to seven drinks. In addition, a three-way interaction revealed that female students who reported typically drinking larger amounts of alcohol in party settings were more likely to make errors when estimating their intoxication for moderately high numbers of drinks (e.g., four to five drinks).


The results are discussed in terms of examining the importance of college student drinking, gender, typical alcohol consumption at a party, and estimation of intoxication. Implications of gender effects in relation to high-risk drinking activities (i.e., pregaming and drinking games) as well as prevention efforts are discussed.

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