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Frequency of Recent Binge Drinking Is Associated With Sex-Specific Cognitive Deficits: Evidence for Condition-Dependent Trait Expression in Humans
Evolutionary Psychology  (IF1.506),  Pub Date : 2020-10-20, DOI: 10.1177/1474704920954445
Liana S. E. Hone, John E. Scofield, Bruce D. Bartholow, David C. Geary

Evolutionary theory suggests that commonly found sex differences are largest in healthy populations and smaller in populations that have been exposed to stressors. We tested this idea in the context of men’s typical advantage (vs. women) in visuospatial abilities (e.g., mental rotation) and women’s typical advantage (vs. men) in social-cognitive (e.g., facial-expression decoding) abilities, as related to frequent binge drinking. Four hundred nineteen undergraduates classified as frequent or infrequent binge drinkers were assessed in these domains. Trial-level multilevel models were used to test a priori Sex × Group (binge drinking) interactions for visuospatial and social-cognitive tasks. Among infrequent binge drinkers, men’s typical advantage in visuospatial abilities and women’s typical advantage in social-cognitive abilities was confirmed. Among frequent binge drinkers, men’s advantage was reduced for one visuospatial task (Δ d = 0.29) and eliminated for another (Δ d = 0.75), and women’s advantage on the social-cognitive task was eliminated (Δ d = 0.12). Males who frequently engaged in extreme binges had exaggerated deficits on one of the visuospatial tasks, as did their female counterparts on the social-cognitive task. The results suggest sex-specific vulnerabilities associated with recent, frequent binge drinking, and support an evolutionary approach to the study of these vulnerabilities.