Mixing Misery and Gin: The Effect of Alcohol Administration on Ostracism Response

Catharine E. Fairbairn, Kasey G. Creswell, Andrew H. Hales, Kipling D. Williams, Kaleigh V. Wilkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Williams’s need-threat model proposes that ostracism responses are reflexive and, because of their evolutionary significance, difficult to diminish. Alcohol is widely consumed in social contexts and for reasons of coping with social stress, and major theories of alcohol propose that intoxication disrupts cognitive appraisal of environmental threats, leading to stress relief. Surprisingly, though, no well-powered experimental research has examined the impact of alcohol intoxication on distress from social ostracism. In three studies across two independent laboratories (N = 438), participants were randomly assigned to receive either an alcoholic or nonalcoholic (i.e., no-alcohol control or placebo) beverage and were exposed to an ostracism (or social inclusion) manipulation. Results, which emerged as remarkably consistent across all studies, indicated strong and consistent effects of ostracism on mood and needs satisfaction among both intoxicated and sober participants. Findings have important implications for ostracism theory and speak to boundary conditions for alcohol’s ability to relieve stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1269-1283
Number of pages15
JournalPersonality and social psychology bulletin
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • alcohol
  • laboratory
  • mechanism
  • ostracism
  • social stressor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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