Alcohol has much less effect on people’s personalities than they imagine, new research finds.
Only extraversion — how outgoing you are — changes when you are drunk.
People become more assertive, gregarious and move around more when drinking.
However, people think that all their personality traits change when they are drunk compared with when they are sober.
Dr Rachel Winograd, the study’s first author, said:
“We were surprised to find such a discrepancy between drinkers’ perceptions of their own alcohol-induced personalities and how observers perceived them.
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.”
It may come down to the fact that we feel different when intoxicated, but our behaviour looks similar.
After drinking, people felt they would be less neurotic, less agreeable, less open to experience and less conscientious.
In other words, they thought that drink would generally degrade their personality, but make them feel happier (reduce neuroticism).
Dr Winograd said:
“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.”
The so-called ‘drunk personality’ may be something of a myth, at least this study found little evidence of it.
People in the study, however, were not drinking a huge amount — just enough to put them over the legal driving limit.
Dr Winograd said:
“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.
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.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Psychological Science (Winograd et al., 2017).