Why Do Some Drunk People Show a Personality Change, According to Science?
The morning after the night before a session of heavy drinking can leave you with not just a sore head but the paranoia of how you behaved under the influence of one too many cocktails.
However, research is increasingly pointing towards the conclusion that, for many of us, alcohol does not hugely transform our personality. Despite this, some drunk people do undergo a personality change when drinking alcohol. It is a common idea that alcohol transforms us into different people and has a profound effect on our personality. It can certainly feel this way when under the influence, you may feel more free with your opinions, more extroverted and even more likely to take risks. However, what happens when our drunk behavior is observed and compared to our sober selves? This is what researchers from the University of Missouri did and the results were fascinating.
The study had 156 participants, half of which were given alcohol in a laboratory setting and were observed by trained researchers who measured the effect alcohol had on them using three personality measures. Prior to this observation, participants were asked to complete self-reports of their normal sober behavior and how they think this changes when drunk.
They were also asked to rate how they thought their personality had changed after consuming alcohol during the experiment.
The results found that the participants’ perception of their personality change when drunk was much more pervasive than the sober observers’ perception of any alcohol-induced changes to personality traits.
The only real personality change noted out of the personality factors observed was a higher degree of extraversion after drinking alcohol.
The researchers do point out, however, that the clinical laboratory setting needs to be acknowledged as an inhibiting factor in the research and that there is a need for further exploration in this area in a more natural environment. Prior to this study, previous research by the University of Missouri distinguished 4 different drunk personality types and highlighted that some people are more susceptible to a personality change under the influence of alcohol. This study looked at the perceptions of 187 undergraduate students and their opinion of their own drunk personality.
The drunk personality types they unearthed were: This is the most common drunk personality type (42% of participants) and is named after the famous writer Ernest Hemingway who was known for being able to drink everyone else under the table.
The Ernest Hemingway’s amongst us are capable of drinking without it having a huge impact on our behavior or personality.
The only changes noted by this group were greater difficulties in organizing and a slight effect on their ability to understand intellectual concepts and abstract ideas. This is the group least likely to experience a problematic relationship with alcohol.
The second most common drunk type in the study was the ‘Mr. Hyde’ (23% of participants). As the name suggests, the drunk personality type of Mr. Hyde relates to the evil alter ego of Dr. Jeckyll (from the famous book by Robert Louis Stevenson) and corresponds with a marked change in behavior when drunk with individuals exhibiting disagreeable behavior. This group was the most likely to experience negative consequences when drinking alcohol and had a higher risk of addiction.
The third most common drunk personality was termed ‘The Nutty Professor’ by the researchers and is based on Eddy Murphy’s character in the film of the same name. This relates to people who undergo a complete transformation after drinking alcohol. This is someone who is usually shy and retiring yet tuns into the life and soul of the party after a few glasses of Chardonnay. This accounted for 20% of the participants and wasn’t linked with any problematic alcohol usage.
The rarest drunk personality type amongst participants (15%) was referred to by the researchers as ‘The Mary Poppins’. This relates to those who are not only sweet and friendly when sober but maintain this manner after drinking alcohol. Relating to the temperament of the world’s greatest nanny, Mary Poppins, this group were the most responsible drinkers and did not experience any negative effects from drinking alcohol. Research into the effects of alcohol on our personalities highlights some interesting discrepancies between how we think we appear when drunk, and how others actually perceive our drunk behavior. Interestingly, despite popular belief in the transformative effects of alcohol, the research suggests that our personalities are not as influenced by this substance as we might think. However, the fact remains that some drunk people are more affected than others by a few too many drinks and everyone has one friend who perhaps turns into the worst or best version of themselves when under the influence.
There is a need for further research in this area, especially in a more natural setting to a scientific laboratory in order to truly see the impact of alcohol on personality types. R.
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