I turned 30 this year.
The age that the “old people” were when I was 18, smooth as a baby’s bottom, and just beginning to immerse myself in what I fondly refer to as the “I’ll drink anything that contains more alcohol than mouthwash” era.
Those were the good ol’ days. But, you know, as much as I miss my youth, there’s something beautiful about turning 30. I know myself. Inside and out. And barring any extreme hunger situations, there are rarely any surprises.
And the thing I know best about myself is this…
Long nights of drinking are always followed by many days of repentance. Always.
I know what you’re thinking, “what on earth do you do that requires repenting, you seem so charming…”
First off, thank you. Second off, you’re correct. But, rather than try to explain my shortcomings, I’ll defer to a lyric from 1999’s (almost) one-hit wonder, Lit.
“Can we forget about the things I said when I was drunk, I didn’t mean to call you that.”
The truth is, I probably did mean to call you that. Because that’s how I feel. And when I drink, it’s the perfect time to let you know it, because I can hide behind the guise that it was the alcohol talking.
But, it looks like new research out of the University of Missouri might just blow my cover.
“Although widely accepted in the lay, treatment, and recovery communities, the concept of ‘drunk personality’ has only recently been studied scientifically,” said the study’s leader, a psychological scientist, Rachel Winograd.
For the study, 156 participants were asked to complete a survey in which they would describe their “typical sober” personality and “typical drunk” personalities, as well as how much alcohol they usually drank.
After the participants had finished the survey, they were split into same-sex groups. Some of the groups were given soda as a placebo, while others drank vodka and sprite. Participants were required to achieve a blood alcohol content of approximately .09, or reach a level of noticeable tipsiness, whichever came first.
After allowing 15 minutes for the alcohol to absorb, participants were taking to playing games and working on puzzles designed to identify a variety of personality traits.
During the activities, the participants were asked to rate their personalities two separate times, all while being filmed so that observers could study the behaviour of both the drunk and sober groups.
They found that the perception of personality varies significantly depending on if you asked the participant or the observer. In other words, while you might feel like your personality changes when you drink, those changes aren’t usually noticeable to others.
As part of the experiment, participants were asked to rate themselves on the Big 5 scale of personality factor, which measures conscientiousness, openness to experience, agreeableness, extraversion and neuroticism. Drunk participants reported feeling a change in all five personality traits, while the trained observers did not find great differences in the behaviour between the groups. The only major difference was in the groups’ levels of extroversion: The drunk group seemed happier and more active when playing games.
“The most surprising finding was the discrepancy between drinkers’ perceptions of their own alcohol-induced personalities and how the observers perceived them,” Winograd said.
“It makes sense that extraversion changes were picked up by both groups—it has been found to be the most observable trait—we were just surprised it was the only one.”
Winograd hopes to apply this study to drunk personalities across different cultures and global populations, as well as to see see the findings of the study replicated in the real world.
“And, probably most importantly, we need to see if this work is relevant in the clinical world and can actually be effectively included in interventions to help reduce any negative impact of alcohol on people’s lives,” she wrote.
So, there you have it. Science-backed research that confirms what I’ve long tried to hide, I’m as big of a jerk as was suspected.
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Don Patrick is an amateur writer and sports enthusiast. He loves reading books, listening to the Huberman Lab Podcast, and spending time with his family and friends. Don is also a personal trainer and youth hockey coach.