Alcohol Does Not Alter Personality

Turns out, there is no such thing a ‘happy drunk.’ Scientists in a recent study published at Clinical Psychological Science, have concluded that alcohol does not radically change personality. Although many people blame drinking for alterations in their usual behavior, new research shows that there is very little shift in character between sober and squiffy (a British term of art).

In other words, when we drink we only become more ourselves. Interesting.

In fact, the only change of note was that people became more extroverted. But even at that, the change is simply a louder version of their usual personality, of the usual extroverted personality.

“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 Dr Rachel Winograd of the University of Missouri, St. Louis.

“Participants reported experiencing differences in all factors of personality, but extroversion was the only factor robustly perceived to be different across participants in alcohol and sober conditions.”

The idea that we transform into different people when we’re under the influence is a popular one, so much so that the counseling profession considers differences in an individual’s behavior when drunk an indicator as to whether someone has a drinking problem.

To find out if personality really did change when drinking, the research scientists recruited 156 participants who completed an initial survey gauging their typical alcohol consumption and their perceptions of their own ‘typical sober’ and ‘typical drunk’ personality. They then visited a lab with groups of friends and were treated to vodka and lemonade cocktails, while being asked to take part in group activities, such as discussion questions and puzzles to bring out certain personality traits.

After drinking, participants reported lower levels of conscientiousness, openness to experience, and agreeableness, and they reported higher levels of extroversion and emotional stability.

“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,” added Dr Winograd.

“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.”

The upshot? You become more yourself when drinking.

Are you extroverted? Then, you will become more so when drinking. Are you introverted? Well, then, you guessed it … you become more so when inebriated.

The research was originally published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science. The interview and quotes above appeared in the Daily Mail from May 15, 2017.

About Dr Joseph Russo

Born and raised in Woodland Hills, California; now residing in Laramie, Wyoming (or "Laradise" as we call it, for good reason), with my wife Cindy, our little schnauzer, Macy Mae, and a cat named Markie. I hold a BBA from Cal State Northridge and an MBA from the University of Nevada at Reno. My first career was in business, for some 25+ years. In 2007, I shifted gears and entered the helping professions as a mental health counselor. I earned an MA in Educational Psychology and a Doctorate (PhD) in Counselor Education and Supervision. In my spare time I enjoy mentoring young and not-so-young business and non-profit executives as they go about growing their businesses and presence. I also teach part-time at the University of Wyoming, in both the Colleges of Education and Business.
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