Acute alcohol effects on facial expressions of emotions in social drinkers: A systematic review
Background: As known from everyday experience and experimental research, alcohol modulates emotions. Particularly regarding social interaction, the effects of alcohol on the facial expression of emotion might be of relevance. However, these effects have not been systematically studied. We performed a systematic review on acute alcohol effects on social drinkers’ facial expressions of induced positive and negative emotions. Materials and methods: With a predefined algorithm, we searched three electronic databases (PubMed, PsycInfo, and Web of Science) for studies conducted on social drinkers that used acute alcohol administration, emotion induction, and standardized methods to record facial expressions. We excluded those studies that failed common quality standards, and finally selected 13 investigations for this review. Results: Overall, alcohol exerted effects on facial expressions of emotions in social drinkers. These effects were not generally disinhibiting, but varied depending on the valence of emotion and on social interaction. Being consumed within social groups, alcohol mostly influenced facial expressions of emotions in a socially desirable way, thus underscoring the view of alcohol as social lubricant. However, methodical differences regarding alcohol administration between the studies complicated comparability. Conclusion: Our review highlighted the relevance of emotional valence and social-context factors for acute alcohol effects on social drinkers’ facial expressions of emotions. Future research should investigate how these alcohol effects influence the development of problematic drinking behavior in social drinkers.