What effect does alcohol have on user behaviour? Alcohol is a part of many Western cultures and it's entirely possible that some of our applications will be used by people who have had a drink or two. But how does that fact influence our designs?

I'm interested in hearing about any effects, but in particular -

  • What are the effects on motor coordination, and how can this be ameliorated? Do drunk users benefit from larger targets?
  • How is the user's vision affected? Is reading affected? What sorts of reading issues become more common? Do users start to read more content, in the way that low-literacy readers do? Or do they read less? How about comprehension effects?
  • Is the user's memory affected? Are there recall issues? What about working memory capacity? By how much?
  • What about hearing? Does a user's responsiveness to aural feedback change? In what ways?

Answers citing research are a plus.


2 Answers 2


Interesting question :) My first thought is that UIs that work for small kids could work well for drunk users (bigger targets, simple questions). Actually, the apps that would be easy for a drunk would also benefit sober users.

This article lists specific effects that may answer some of your questions http://www.indiana.edu/~adic/effects.html

"0.04-0.06 BAC: Feeling of well-being, relaxation, lower inhibitions, sensation of warmth. Euphoria. Some minor impairment of reasoning and memory, lowering of caution.

0.07-0.09 BAC: Slight impairment of balance, speech, vision, reaction time, and hearing. Euphoria. Judgement and self- control are reduced, and caution, reason and memory are impaired.

0.10-0.125 BAC: Significant impairment of motor coordination and loss of good judgement. Speech may be slurred; balance, vision, reaction time and hearing will be impaired. Euphoria. It is illegal to operate a motor vehicle at this level of intoxication."

Google has a nice little feature Mail Goggles; users are asked to do arithmetic in certain time to proceed. User has control when the feature turns on (e.g. Sunday from 11pm-4am).

I think touchscreens apps could perhaps recognize a drunk user and dynamically adjust. For example, user keeps clicking on the screen without hitting the control, control gets bigger. Phone app that provides big pictures of who you want to call vs. text names could do better. Anything that requires less cognition and motor coordination could perform better.

  • Oh the feature of Mail Goggles is so funny (and useful sometimes)
    – sysscore
    Commented Nov 9, 2012 at 10:57
  • Where does the statement " it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle at the level" apply to? - It seems to be on one level too high. Commented Dec 2, 2012 at 22:55

This question seems a little silly. If you're looking for 'affects of alcohol' that's only a Google search away. (short answer, "yes" it affects all you list).

That said, the question also seems suspiciously tailor-made for this answer:



  • 1
    I don't think it's silly at all to ask how human-computer interaction changes under a common state of neurological impairment. Still, thanks for the research link. Commented Nov 8, 2012 at 22:27
  • The question isn't necessarily silly. It's just that the answers are plentiful and common. We've known the effects of alcohol impairment for quite a while.
    – DA01
    Commented Nov 9, 2012 at 0:36
  • 1
    Superb link above ;)
    – sysscore
    Commented Nov 9, 2012 at 10:52

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