Laura feels uncomfortable in social situations. She likes to have a few beers to loosen up. She prefers “drunk Laura” to “sober Laura” when trying to socialize. She thinks she’s a lot more fun and likeable.
Tom blew up at his friend Chris when they were out drinking together last weekend. He called Chris to apologize, saying it was just the booze talking. “Drunk Tom is angry Tom,” he told Chris. “I had too many…and that usually makes my temper flare.”
Laura and Tom make the same assumption that many of us make. When we’re intoxicated, our personalities undergo some pretty significant changes. We essentially become different people while we’re under the influence.
But, is this true? Based on a recent study, researchers say no.
The View is Different Out Here
To study this phenomenon, researchers asked participants to consume alcohol, measured their personalities at two points during the study, and had outside observers record their behaviors. Participants rated their personalities, as did the observers.
The observations were quite revealing – because they were significantly different.
Participants claimed drinking changed their personality across all five traits examined. Researchers used the classic Five Factor Model – extraversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, intellect, and conscientiousness.
But outside observers “saw far fewer differences between the participants’ sober and drunk ‘personalities.’” From the outside, participants appeared somewhat more outgoing (extraversion). That was it. No major personality transformations. No full-spectrum changes. No alter egos seemed to emerge.
Rachel Winograde, lead author of the study, admits, “We were surprised to find such a discrepancy between drinkers’ perceptions of their own alcohol-induced personalities and how observers perceived them.”
Why the discrepancy? Winograde offers the following explanation, “We believe both the participants and raters were both accurate and inaccurate – the raters reliably reported what was visible to them and the participants experienced internal changes that were real to them but imperceptible to observers.”
So, you may think that alcohol is changing your personality, but you may be fooling yourself. It’s possible you’re playing some internal psychological game that others can’t perceive. You may be using alcohol in unhealthy ways to soothe nerves or to take the blame for bad behaviors.
Whether alcohol reduces inhibitions or ramps up emotions already present, it’s important to keep one thing in mind. We have to live with whatever personality we choose to display. Ultimately, we’re the ones responsible for our actions – so choose carefully.
Additional Reading: Catastrophic Thinking – Alcohol Isn’t Your Great Escape
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