A young woman closes her arms and raises her arms skyward in victory. She's been playing beer pong.
ASU bar lab: It's about science. (Photo Credit: CC BY-SA/yusuke toyoda/Flickr)

Unlike most professors, Arizona State University psychology instructor Will Corbin tends bar during class. Corbin’s bar lab, stocked with all the gin, whiskey, vodka, tequila and mood lighting necessary to produce drunken students, and others like it are where many familiar alcohol-related statistics come from. By observing their behavior, Corbin hopes to better understand alcohol disorders and risky drinking-related behaviors that are common on U.S. college campuses.

Corbin moves bar lab from Yale to ASU

According to AZ Central, there are approximately a dozen bar labs at college campuses across the U.S. In total, Will Corbin has been tending his for nine years, the last two at ASU and the seven previous years at Yale University.

From lighting and d├ęcor to stainless-steel sinks and friendly banter, his National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism-funded bar labs are intended to resemble real bars, rather than laboratories. Researchers serve alcohol and record student responses as they become intoxicated. Experiment subjects are mostly ASU students, ages 21 to 30, and have been pre-screened by researchers and paid for their services.

“The biggest thing I get is: ‘You’ve gotta be kidding me. You have a bar, and you give people alcohol as part of your research?’ ” said Corbin.

Corbin’s goal is to better understand how to treat alcohol disorders and decrease the risky behavior that comes with the territory, such as drunk driving, unsafe sex, sexual assault and academic problems. The professor reportedly has more applicants than he can use.

Bar lab began in the 1980s

Research into college drinking and college-age drinkers began at the University of Washington in the 1980s. Dr. G. Alan Marlatt’s Behavioral Alcohol Research Lab (BAR Lab) and subsequent ventures like Will Corbin’s BARCA (Behavioral Alcohol Research for Clinical Advancement) Lab have contributed a great deal to the literature of alcohol disorders.

By closely regulating alcohol intake and monitoring blood alcohol levels with a Breathalyzer, Corbin and his team of researchers create a safer situation for students who become intoxicated during an array of experiments that test memory, reaction time, inhibitions and moral flexibility. Genetic predisposition to alcohol problems and environmental risk factors are among the key areas of study.

Sobering stats on college drinking problems

The need for bar labs like the one Corbin runs remains great, as the following frightening statistics culled from various U.S. studies suggest.

Interview with Corbin in bar lab


AZCentral: http://bit.ly/ngDkIR

College Drinking: http://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/statssummaries/snapshot.aspx

USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2008-08-18-college-drinking_N.htm

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