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Drinking alcohol may change your personality, but not as much as you think: study

The argument is that alcohol changes people once it gets into their system, but it is probably not as much as we thought according to a new study.

There are less drastic differences in the personalities of “drunk” and “sober” individuals, said the new study, although people usually report substantive changes in their personalities when they are drunk.

“We were surprised to find such a discrepancy between drinkers’ perceptions of their own alcohol-induced personalities and how observers perceived them,” Rachel Winograd said in a statement.

The psychological scientist from the University of Missouri, St. Louis—Missouri Institute of Mental Health added: “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.”

The researchers said that while the systematic differences between drunken and sober behaviors can bring about clinical information on whether a person has drinking problem, the scientific concept on a drunk personality remains less clear.

Such discrepancy, however, may point to differences in the point of view.

They noted the accuracy and inaccuracy of both participants and raters, with the former experiencing internal changes they perceived as real to them yet were unnoticeable to observers and the latter reporting reliably what to them was visible.

Based on previous studies of Winograd, the participants reported consistently of the changes in their personalities when they drink.

There was a lack of experimental evidence for such global changes, however.

To find answers, they enlisted 156 participants in their laboratory study, who finished an initial survey that gauged their usual alcohol consumption as well as their opinions of their own typical drunk and typical sober personalities.

The participants then went later to the lab in a group or 3 or 4 friends, with the researchers administering a baseline breath analyzer test and measuring their weight and height.

Every participant had something to drink such as Sprite, Sprite cocktails that would generate .09 of alcohol content in the blood, and vodka that are individually tailored.

Past the absorption period of 15 minutes, they worked on a series of group activities that include logic puzzles and discussion questions with the intention of stimulating various personality behaviors and traits.

Meanwhile, the observers were outside using video recordings to complete the standardized assessments of each participant’s personality traits.

The study found that the ratings of participants showed change in all the five major personality factors.

The participants narrated lower conscientiousness levels, agreeableness, and openness to experience as well as higher levels of extraversion and emotional stability after consuming the drink.

The observers noticed lesser differences across the personality traits of intoxicated and sober participants, further indicating reliable differences alone in the personality factor of extraversion.

They rated participants who drank alcohol higher on three aspects of extraversion: activity levels, assertiveness, and gregariousness.

The researchers claimed that considering extraversion as the most outwardly personality factor that is visible, both parties noting differences in such trait made sense.

Regardless, they admitted not being able to rule out other influences contributing to the discrepancy of ratings such as the personal expectations of the participants of their drunk personalities.

Winograd expressed their interest to witness such findings duplicated outside the lab such as in homes, parties, and bars.

“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 said.

The research was published in the journal of Clinical Psychological Science, a publication by the Association for Psychological Science, and co-authored by Douglas Steinley and Kenneth J. Sher of the University of Missouri, Columbia, and Sean P. Lane of Purdue University and University of Missouri, St. Louis—Missouri Institute of Mental Health.

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