People often say that drinking can make you the life of the party, give you a little liquid courage or alter your behavior significantly. But new research says that drinking doesn’t actually change your personality nearly as much as you’d think. In other words, drunk you is the same as sober you.
“Although widely accepted in the lay, treatment, and recovery communities, the concept of ‘drunk personality’ has only recently been studied scientifically,” lead study author Rachel Winograd wrote in an email to Simplemost.
The study, which comes out of the University of Missouri, found that third-party observers rarely found significant changes in the drunken subjects’ personalities. Headed by Winograd, a psychological scientist at the University of Missouri, the study asked 156 participants to complete a survey in which they would describe their “typical sober” personality and “typical drunk” personalities, as well as how much alcohol they usually drank.
After the participants had finished the survey, they were split into same-sex groups. Some of the groups drank just soda and some drank vodka and sprite. Participants had to attain a blood alcohol content of approximately .09, or noticeable tipsiness.
After waiting 15 minutes for the alcohol to absorb, the study participants played games and worked on puzzles that were designed to draw out a variety of personality traits. During the activities, the participants had to rate their personalities two separate times. The sessions were filmed so that the outside observers could carefully study the behavior of both the drunk and sober groups.
And what did they find? That depending on who is observing, an outside party or the drinker, perception of personality varies significantly. In other words, while you might feel like your personality changes when you drink, those changes aren’t usually noticeable to others.
During the experiment, the participants rated themselves on the Big 5 scale of personality factor, which measures conscientiousness, openness to experience, agreeableness, extraversion and neuroticism. Where drunk participants said they felt a change in all five personality traits, the trained observers did not find great differences in the behavior of the drunk and sober groups. The only major difference was in the groups’ levels of extroversion: The drunk group seemed happier and more active when playing games.
“The most surprising finding was the discrepancy between drinkers’ perceptions of their own alcohol-induced personalities and how the observers perceived them,” Winograd told Simplemost. “It makes sense that extraversion changes were picked up by both groups—it has been found to be the most observable trait—we were just surprised it was the only one.”
Moving forward, Winograd hopes to apply this study to drunk personalities across different cultures and global populations. She also wants to see the findings of the study replicated outside the lab in bars and people’s homes—you know, the places where people normally drink.
“And, probably most importantly, we need to see if this work is relevant in the clinical world and can actually be effectively included in interventions to help reduce any negative impact of alcohol on people’s lives,” she wrote.
For now, just know that it’s okay to be the life of the party—no matter how many drinks you’ve had.