Peter R. Giancola

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For a substance that persists in being so easy to obtain and so heavily marketed, it is nothing short of a world-wide tragedy that alcohol intoxication is involved in a disproportionate number of violent interpersonal acts.  The National Crime Victimization Survey reported that alcohol was present, during the time of the transgression, in 63% of intimate partner violence incidents, 39%-45% of murders, 32%-40% of sexual assaults, and 45%-46% of physical assaults in the United States.  The economic costs associated with alcohol-related crime have been estimated to exceed $205 billion in the United States alone, with 85% of these costs attributable to violent crime and with alcohol being responsible for more than double the costs of all other drugs combined.

Although we study a number of different research questions in my laboratory, all are related to aggression (see publications below); however, our chief focus is to advance the Alcohol Myopia Model (AMM; Steele & Josephs, 1990).  The AMM postulates that intoxication impairs controlled effortful cognitive processing dependent on intact attentional capacity.  This impairment creates a “myopic” effect on attention that restricts the range of internal and external cues that can be perceived and processed.  As a result, remaining attentional resources are allocated to the most salient and easy-to-process cues.  In hostile situations, alcohol facilitates aggression by narrowing attention on provocative cues because, given their alarming/threatening nature, they are generally more salient than non-provocative or inhibitory cues (i.e., the consequences of retaliation).  As a result of this alcohol myopia, the impact of non-provocative or inhibitory cues is not fully processed, or possibly not even perceived, thus increasing the probability of a violent reaction.

Thus, simply put, our goals are to study aggression, alcohol-related aggression, and to continue to build upon and advance the AMM from clinical and public health perspectives in order to determine how it can be applied to the prevention of alcohol-related violence (Giancola, Josephs, Parrott, & Duke, 2010).

Graduate Training

Ph.D. (Clinical/Applied Psychopathology) University of Georgia, 1996

Selected Publications: 

(** denotes student author)

  • Giancola, P.R., **Corman, M.D.  (2007).  Alcohol and aggression:  A test of the attention-allocation model.  Psychological Science, 18, 649-655
  • **Phillips, J.P., Giancola, P.R.  (2008).  Experimentally-induced anxiety attenuates alcohol-related aggression in men.  Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 16, 43-56.
  • **Godlaski, A.J., Giancola, P.R.  (2009).  Executive functioning, irritability, and alcohol-related aggression.  Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 23, 391-403.
  • Giancola, P.R., Josephs, R.A., Parrott, D.J., **Duke, A.A. (2010).  Alcohol myopia revisited:  Clarifying aggression and other acts of disinhibition through a distorted lens.  Perspectives on Psychological Science, 5, 265-278.
  • **Duke A.A., Giancola, P.R., **Morris, D.H., **Holt, J.C.D., & **Gunn, R.L.  (2011).  Alcohol dose and aggression:  Another reason why drinking more is a bad idea.  Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 72, 34-43.
  • Giancola, P.R.,**Duke, A.A., & **Ritz, K.Z.  (2011).  Alcohol, violence, and the alcohol myopia model:  Preliminary findings and implications for prevention.  Addictive Behaviors, 36, 1019-1022.
  • Giancola, P.R., **Godlaski, A.J., & Roth, R.M.  (2012).  Idenfifying component -processes of executive functioning that serve as risk factors for the alcohol-aggression relation.  Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 26, 201-211.
Work Hours

Given that many of the experiments that are conducted in my laboratory involve alcohol administration, it is not unusual for them to begin in the afternoon or early evenings.  This means that students who work in my lab tend to put in very late hours because they have to run the experiment but then also wait for the research participants to detoxify.  Given this, It is not unusual for students to sometimes leave the lab around 10pm to 11pm (sometimes even later -- as a result, some research participants are tested on weekends).  As a trade-off, the student will gain invaluable knowledge about the intricate details of alcohol-administration research, related bio-ethics, the assessment of physical aggression, as well as a variety of other advanced technical laboratory skills.

Student Fit

Students who will fit best into my laboratory include those that are interested in:

  • Examining who is at greatest risk for aggression when intoxicated and why that is the case.
  • Studying aggression using a variety of formats (to date, we have been using a particular laboratory paradigm – see articles listed above).  However, other approaches (i.e., field studies, biochemical, genetic, etc.) are greatly encouraged for motivated students who wish to expand the methodology that we are currently utilizing.
  • Better understanding violence in different populations (e.g., general community violence, domestic/intimate partner violence, violence against women, violence on college campuses, sexual assault, violence in prison inmates, individuals returning from military duty, drunk driving, etc.).

Finally, as noted above, the majority of our investigations have examined who is at greatest risk for becoming aggressive when intoxicated and why that is the case.  However, alcohol is simply one of the many catalysts that can trigger aggression.  Ultimately, our dependent variable is aggression/violence and as such, our focus is to better understand its underlying causes, with or without alcohol.

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