In this episode seven of the Drugs Season series of Just Science podcasts, Dr. Nadja Schreiber Compo, an associate professor at Florida International University, is interviewed about her research on the effects of alcohol on witnesses' and victims' amount and accuracy of recall for events they observed or in which they participated while intoxicated.
After a brief review of Schreiber Compo's experiences and decisions that influenced her to enter the field of forensic psychology, she discusses the methodology and findings of her study of whether and how varying levels of alcohol in a person's system affect her/his ability to recall accurately events in which she/he participated or observed. Noting that the recall of events and recognition of faces require different psychological capabilities, her research focused on the accurate recall of events. The overall conclusion of her research is that varying levels of alcohol in individuals' systems do not significantly impair their ability to recall accurately events they have witnessed or in which they have participated while intoxicated. Although Schreiber Compo's particular study did not measure facial recall under the influence of alcohol, she notes that research focusing on this issue has also concluded that alcohol does not significantly affect a person's facial recall. Most of the interview, however, addresses the difficult methodological challenges in conducting the research. These include staging a realistic setting and event for both the alcohol consumption and the event targeted for recall; health-related considerations regarding the amount of alcohol participants were allowed to consume; measurement of the amount of alcohol consumed in relation to the degree of recall accuracy; and ensuring that recall interview techniques did not influence the amount or accuracy of recall.