Summary: While most people tend to report substantive personality changes when they drink, other people see less drastic changes in their personalities between when they are sober and when they are drunk, a new study reports.
People typically report substantive changes to their personality when they become intoxicated, but observations from outsiders suggest less drastic differences between “sober” and “drunk” personalities, according to research published in Clinical Psychological Science.
“We were surprised to find such a discrepancy between drinkers’ perceptions of their own alcohol-induced personalities and how observers perceived them,” says psychological scientist Rachel Winograd of the University of Missouri, St. Louis–Missouri Institute of Mental Health. “Participants reported experiencing differences in all factors of the Five Factor Model of personality, but extraversion was the only factor robustly perceived to be different across participants in alcohol and sober conditions.”
Winograd and colleagues speculate that this discrepancy may come down to inherent differences in point of view:
“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,” she explains.
The idea that we transform into different people when we’re under the influence is a popular one. And systematic differences in an individual’s sober behavior and their drunken behaviors can even inform clinical determinations about whether someone has a drinking problem. But the science on “drunk personality” as a concept is less clear. In Winograd’s previous studies, participants reliably reported that their personality changes when they imbibe, but experimental evidence for this kind of global change was lacking.
Winograd and colleagues decided to bring the question into the lab, where they could carefully calibrate alcohol consumption and closely monitor individual behavior. They recruited 156 participants, who completed an initial survey gauging their typical alcohol consumption and their perceptions of their own “typical sober” personality and “typical drunk” personality.
Later, the participants came to the lab in friend groups of 3 or 4, where the researchers administered a baseline breathalyzer test and measured the participants’ height and weight. Over the course of about 15 minutes, each participant consumed beverages — some drank Sprite, while others consumed individually-tailored vodka and Sprite cocktails designed to produce a blood alcohol content of about .09.
After a 15-minute absorption period, the friends worked through a series of fun group activities — including discussion questions and logic puzzles — intended to elicit a variety of personality traits and behaviors.
The participants completed personality measures at two points during the lab session. And outside observers used video recordings to complete standardized assessments of each individual’s personality traits.
As expected, participants’ ratings indicated change in all five of the major personality factors. After drinking, participants reported lower levels of conscientiousness, openness to experience, and agreeableness, and they reported higher levels of extraversion and emotional stability (the inverse of neuroticism).
The observers, on the other hand, noted fewer differences across the sober and intoxicated participants’ personality traits. In fact, observer ratings indicated reliable differences in only one personality factor: extraversion. Specifically, participants who had consumed alcohol were rated higher on three facets of extraversion: gregariousness, assertiveness, and levels of activity.
Given that extraversion is the most outwardly visible personality factor, it makes sense that both parties noted differences in this trait, the researchers argue.
They acknowledge, however, that they cannot rule out other influences — such as participants’ own expectations of their drunk personality — that may have contributed to the discrepancy in ratings.
“Of course, we also would love to see these findings replicated outside of the lab — in bars, at parties, and in homes where people actually do their drinking,” says Winograd.
“Most importantly, we need to see how this work is most relevant in the clinical realm and can be effectively included in interventions to help reduce any negative impact of alcohol on peoples’ lives,” she concludes.
About this neuroscience research article
Co-authors on the research include Douglas Steinley of the University of Missouri, Columbia; Sean P. Lane of the University of Missouri, St. Louis–Missouri Institute of Mental Health and Purdue University; and Kenneth J. Sher of the University of Missouri, Columbia.
Source: Anna Mikulak – APS Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is adapted from the APS news release. Original Research: Abstract for “An Experimental Investigation of Drunk Personality Using Self and Observer Reports” by Rachel P. Winograd, Douglas Steinley, Sean P. Lane, and Kenneth J. Sher in Clinical Psychological Science. Published online April 30 2017 doi:10.1177/2167702616689780
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[cbtabs][cbtab title=”MLA”]APS “Personality May Change When You Drink, But Less Than You Think.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 15 May 2017. <https://neurosciencenews.com/alcohol-personality-changes-6681/>.[/cbtab][cbtab title=”APA”]APS (2017, May 15). Personality May Change When You Drink, But Less Than You Think. NeuroscienceNew. Retrieved May 15, 2017 from https://neurosciencenews.com/alcohol-personality-changes-6681/[/cbtab][cbtab title=”Chicago”]APS “Personality May Change When You Drink, But Less Than You Think.” https://neurosciencenews.com/alcohol-personality-changes-6681/ (accessed May 15, 2017).[/cbtab][/cbtabs]
An Experimental Investigation of Drunk Personality Using Self and Observer Reports
Across various cultures there are robust stereotypes regarding how alcohol intoxication alters individuals’ normative personalities. However, whether these stereotypes are rooted in genuine average effects or in salient, socially proliferated exemplars remains unclear. The current study tested if differences between sober and intoxicated personality expression can be observed reliably by trained raters during a drinking episode. Participants (N = 156), half of whom received alcohol, attended laboratory sessions in same-gender friend groups and engaged in activities designed to elicit a range of personality expression. Participants completed self-reports of their “typical” sober and drunk personalities 2 weeks prior to their sessions and via two short measures during the session. In addition, participants were recorded and rated by multiple (range = 5–17) trained raters using three personality measures. Self-perceptions of sober-to-drunk personality differences were more pervasive than observer-perceptions, but alcohol-induced changes in Extraversion, specifically, were robust across measures and reporters.
“An Experimental Investigation of Drunk Personality Using Self and Observer Reports” by Rachel P. Winograd, Douglas Steinley, Sean P. Lane, and Kenneth J. Sher in Clinical Psychological Science. Published online April 30 2017 doi:10.1177/2167702616689780