The findings will have a bearing form understanding the way people behave in situations where alcohol is present, including bars, sporting events and parties.

However, this aggressive behaviour occurred only when people were subjected to provocation in a way that was not a clear-cut insult, the study showed.

"The results provide another strong demonstration that exposing someone to alcohol-related words alone can influence social behaviour in ways that are consistent with the effects of alcohol consumption," asserted Eduardo Vasquez from University of Kent.

A team of five psychologists, including Vasquez, demonstrated in two experiments that participants showed aggression after exposure to alcohol-related words - known as ‘alcohol priming’.

In the first experiment, half of the students were exposed to alcohol primes, for example, the words 'wine', 'beer' and 'whisky' while the other half were exposed to non-alcohol primes for example, 'milk', 'water' and 'juice'.

Prior to receiving feedback on an essay they had written. Participants demonstrated increased aggressive retaliation when provoked by the essay feedback, but only when the provocation could not be clearly interpreted as an insult.

The research also examined the parameters within which alcohol priming is likely to affect aggression. "These effects seem to occur primarily when the provocation is not clear-cut and obvious, and are thus more open to interpretation," the study authors concluded.

(Agencies)

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