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A novel insight into alcohol-fuelled violence among Emergency Department patients

A novel insight into alcohol-fuelled violence among Emergency Department patients

By: Sivarajasingam V1, Long I2, Matthews K2, School of Dentistry; Cardiff Business School

Traditional economic models have suggested that, when an individual consumes more alcohol, they find consuming violence more pleasurable. We seek to test this ‘impaired judgement’ hypothesis on patients seeking treatment for violent injuries at Cardiff Emergency Department (ED). In our model, two parties become involved in an argument which can be resolved through compromise or violence. When sober, compromise is always preferable, as fighting is costly. In line with evidence on ‘Dutch courage’, we propose that drinking makes parties overestimate their likelihood of winning a fight (so-called over optimism bias). Neither party is willing to back down and fighting becomes inevitable.

Study sample will consist of adult patients aged 18 years and over presenting at Cardiff ED following violent injury (n=100). Following written consent, patients will be breathalysed and asked to complete Raven’s standard progressive matrices. This consists of a series of picture sequences, shown to patients on a computer. Patients are then asked to select the picture that they believe is the next one in the sequence from several options. Having completed the test, patients will then be asked how many of the questions they think they got correct. The difference between their response and the actual number of correct answers provides a measure of over optimism bias. A new follow-up Raven’s standard progressive matrix will be completed with the same cohort of patients at the review clinic a week later. Our hypothesis is that patients over optimism bias will be reduced at their follow-up interview, when sober. We will also ask patients to guess how many questions they thought they got correct during the first test. Comparing this to their response at the first interview will give us a measure of sophistication. We expect sophistication to be negatively correlated with alcohol consumption, as measured by the breathalyser.

Principal research questions to be addressed are:

  1. Does alcohol consumption increase over optimism bias?
  2. Do sophisticated individuals consume less alcohol?
  3. Is the increase in over optimism bias linked to violence?

The project has been funded via the Crime & Security Research Institute's Fellowship grant scheme. To find out more about working with us and accessing funding please click here. 

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