Does Personality Change Under the Influence of Alcohol?

Group of friends drinking alcoholMany people tend to think drinking alcohol radically alters their personality, making them more social. Some people also rely on alcohol use to excuse behavior such as aggression. But according to research published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, outside observers may not notice significant differences in personality when a person is under the influence of alcohol.

Measuring Alcohol’s Effect on Personality Traits

To test whether alcohol significantly changes personality, researchers recruited a group of 156 participants. The participants completed surveys about their “typical” and “drunk” personalities. The surveys used the five-factor model of personality, which includes measures of extroversion, agreeableness, openness to new experiences, conscientiousness, and emotional stability.

Two weeks later, researchers invited participants to a lab, along with a group of three or four friends. Participants took a breathalyzer test, and researchers measured their height and weight to assess the amount of alcohol necessary to induce a blood alcohol level of about 0.09. This level correlates with moderate intoxication, and exceeds the legal alcohol consumption limit when driving in all 50 states.

Observers gave the participants beverages, with half drinking Sprite only and the other half consuming Sprite and vodka cocktails. Fifteen minutes later, participants completed a range of activities, such as group discussion questions and logic puzzles.

At two points during the laboratory session, participants again rated their personality traits. Researchers also recorded participants, with trained raters assessing participants’ personalities based on the video.

Participants reported significant changes in all five dimensions of personality after drinking. They reported lower levels of agreeableness, openness, and conscientiousness, and higher levels of emotional stability and extroversion.

The observers, by contrast, saw fewer changes in participants’ personalities. Overall, they only noted significant changes in levels of extroversion. The drunk participants became more active, gregarious, and assertive, but the observers said other components of their personalities remained stable.

Further Research on Alcohol and Personality Necessary

The study’s authors caution that it is unclear what caused the discrepancy in personality ratings. They suggest further research, particularly outside of a laboratory setting, is necessary to determine the effect of alcohol on personality. Further research could also shed light on strategies for reducing substance abuse and other negative outcomes associated with alcohol use.

References:

  1. Comparing state DUI laws. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://dui.findlaw.com/dui-laws-resources/comparing-state-dui-laws.html
  2. Personality may change when you drink, but less than you think. (2017, May 15). Retrieved from https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-05/afps-pmc051217.php
  3. Winograd, R. P., Steinley, D., Lane, S. P., & Sher, K. J. (2017). An experimental investigation of drunk personality using self and observer reports. Clinical Psychological Science, 5(3), 439-456. doi:10.1177/2167702616689780

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  • Beth

    Beth

    May 30th, 2017 at 10:59 AM

    Most of the people that I have evr been aorund don’t have a drastic personality change when drinking but I would say that most of us would tend to loosen up a bit more than we are sober

  • Bert

    Bert

    May 30th, 2017 at 5:03 PM

    Most of the time I would say that there are some personality changes and for some drinkers this is not going to be a good thing to be around.
    They will get snippy and confrontational and especially if they already have the tendency to be that way when they are sober; just think of how alcohol will exacerbate those tendencies.

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