Research shows your drunk personality is just your personality
We’ve all got those friends who get a little too angry or a little too happy when they drink. Well, researchers wanted to find out how much your personality really changes while under the influence. The answer is: not much.
The project’s lead, Rachel Winograd, is a PhD Assistant Research Professor at the Missouri Institute of Mental Health with the University of Missouri St. Louis. She has also authored a study identifying the four drunk personality types. They are as follows:
The Hemingways – Like Ernest Hemingway himself, this group can drink quite a bit without much change to their personality at all.
The Mary Poppins – The cheerful drunks who are not only sweet and responsible, but who tend to experience the fewest alcohol-related problems compared to others.
The Mr. Hydes – The drunks who seem to have an alter ego of Dr. Jekyll. This group has a negative transformation that includes a tendency to be less responsible and most likely to experience the harmful consequences of drinking.
The Nutty Professors – These folks are introverts when sober, but chemically transform into a more confident, extroverted personality type after a few drinks.
In the initial study, the authors used a self-assessment of five measurements: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, and intellect.
“People report that when they drink, they feel higher in extroversion,” Dr. Winograd said. “They feel lower in the other four. What we looked at in this last study was are all those changes observable to the outside eye?”
They brought small groups of volunteers into the lab. Some were given no alcohol. Others were given enough vodka and Sprite in 15 minutes to get them to a blood alcohol content of .09.
They were then given a number of personality tests while their responses were videotaped. Research assistants who were strangers to the volunteers then watched the tape, not knowing who was drunk and who was sober, and assessed the results.
“Everybody agreed, both the drinkers and the people watching, that the drunk people were more extroverted. That’s very visible,” Dr. Winograd said. “But the other factors were only perceived by the drinkers and not able to be observed by strangers.”
Interestingly, they also interviewed the volunteers’ drinking buddies. Their good friends reported seeing the same personality changes in the drinkers that the drinkers perceived themselves. So, while strangers might not notice your personality changes when you’re drunk, your good friends certainly will.
Dr. Winograd notes there were limitations to the study. For example, they did not study people who were just a little buzzed or people who were falling down drunk. They also didn’t study people in a natural setting where they’re surrounded by friends with unlimited alcohol.
“In order to accurately assess people’s personalities when they’re at bars, at house parties … we’d need to invoke some ecological momentary assessment tools,” Dr. Winograd explained.
Think bar trivia night. Only instead of history and science, the questions would be about your desire to approach a stranger or take a risk.
The hope, according to Dr. Winograd, is that with more research, this information will be useful for people who are concerned enough about their own drinking behavior that they seek out professional help.
But, she admits, it also can have some practical applications in our everyday lives.
“This idea that alcohol is a social lubricant, people do seem more gregarious and more social,” Dr. Winograd said. “So, if that’s what you’re going for, then sure. Have a moderate amount of alcohol. You won’t hear any complaints from me.”
Dr. Winograd also says that because the perceived changes in personality tend to be very subtle, if you do hear strangers commenting on your behavior, there’s a good chance you should reconsider your drinking habits.