Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD)

Degree Level



Psychological Science


Lindsay Ham

Committee Member

Ana Bridges

Second Committee Member

Matthew Feldner

Third Committee Member

Jacquelyn D. Wiersma-Mosley


alcohol, college student, social information processing bias, intoxication, sexual assault, Stroop task


Sexual assault among young adults is a highly prevalent public health concern. Alcohol is often implicated as a risk factor for sexual assault through its impairing effects on an individual’s ability to process and respond to social cues in the environment. The effect of alcohol myopia can result in greater focus of attention on salient environmental cues. The relationship between alcohol intoxication and resulting behavior may depend on what type of information is most salient. The current study examined the effects of alcohol on social information processing as it relates to sexual assault risk detection. Method: Participants were 48 young adult women (Mage = 22.10, SD = 1.79; 70.8% White, non-Hispanic). Participants completed computer surveys, consumed either an alcoholic beverage to a BAC of .06% (n = 24), or a non-alcoholic control beverage (n = 24), completed a measure of social information processing interpretation bias (Emotional Stroop task) and a sexual assault risk detection task (latency of responding to a sexual assault vignette as risky). Results: Participants in the alcohol condition identified the man had gone too far in his sexual advances in the sexual assault vignette significantly earlier, and displayed a relative bias towards processing sexual assault cues longer in the modified emotional Stroop task compared to participants in the no alcohol condition. Sexual assault cue Stroop times were not associated with sexual assault response latency. Discussion: Contrary to hypotheses, intoxicated participants showed a relative increase (rather than a decrease) in the cognitive processing of sexual assault risk cues and a shorter (rather than longer) response latency for the sexual assault vignette, compared to non-intoxicated participants. Although Stroop sexual assault scores were unrelated to vignette response latency, if sexual assault risk cues were most salient for intoxicated participants, alcohol myopia theory suggests they would be more likely to attend to those cues. Thus, if sexual assault risk cues were primed by the Stroop task, the effects of intoxication may have related to increased responding in the sexual assault vignette. If replicated, findings suggest priming certain cues could improve recognition and response to risky social situations for intoxicated individuals.