Thursday, July 23, 2015

Four Types of Drunks

I have a fun subject for today.  Rachel Winograd at the University of Missouri-Columbia investigated the different kinds of drunks we turn into.

She studied college students, so there were many drunks to choose from.  Whether this generalizes to the rest of us is an open question.  I will leave this up to you.  Feel free to create your own category based on your personal experience (with yourself or with others you know) and describe them in the comments.

She found four basic categories:

Hemmingways: people who didn’t experience much of a behavior change at all when drunk. Not in their intellect, agreeableness, or in their conscientiousness (her measures).

Nutty Professors: people who are normally introverted but become extroverted when drunk. She notes that this is one of the groups with the greatest behavioral change (see Mr. Hydes below for the other).  I suspect that many people in this category use their drinking as an excuse to engage in behaviors that they want to do more of, but are too timid when sober.

Mary Poppinses: people who are pleasant, harmonious, cheery and stay that way when drunk. This is a good indication that their demeanor is not a façade; they really are pleasant.  Perhaps a good test for any sickeningly sweet friends you have.  And is that the correct plural for “Poppins”?

Mr. Hydes: people who show significant decreases in their agreeableness, conscientiousness, and intellect. You knew this one was coming because they get the most press.  We all know one.  In college I knew quite a few. Clearly, a big and unfortunate change in their behavior.

Two surprising findings in her results that deserve mention:

Two-thirds of the Mr. Hydes were women.  I would not have guessed.  Is this because women are more sensitive to the effects of alcohol? Or perhaps their pleasantness and conscientiousness when sober is just a façade that evaporates with the addition of alcohol?  Or are they secretly dying to be mean once in a while and use the alcohol as an excuse to get it out of their system?  Of course, everyone is different so none of these will be true for every woman who drinks.  But it is fun to imagine.

The other surprising finding is that none of the groups drink more than the others.  I would have thought that Mr. Hydes drink more, but no.  And Nutty Professors don’t drink less (my other guess). 

There are some flaws in her method. She had the students describe their own perceptions of what they are like when they are drunk – not exactly the most objective or insightful source of information about drinking behavior. Not only are drunks less likely to remember the details of their behavior, but it is also likely that their memories will be biased by social norms and their responses when sober will be skewed towards what they prefer to share about themselves (whether true or not).