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There Are No ‘Happy Drunks’ Or ‘Mean Drunks,’ Study Says

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People who drink are often classified according to how they behave when intoxicated, which has led to labels like “happy drunk” or “angry drunk.” But a new study debunks this, saying that there are actually no changes in how a person is when under the influence of and when sober.

Scientists at the University of Missouri-St. Louis conducted a study on more than 150 people, composed of college students over 21 years old and community members. The participants were asked to take a survey, estimating their alcohol consumption and how they perceived they acted before and after drinking, the New York Post reports.

The researchers placed the participants in a laboratory with a group of friends, along with vodka-and-Sprites, Newsweek reports. Half of the groups were given the alcoholic drink, and the other half drank only Sprite. The participants then took part in group activities such as puzzles and discussion questions, in order to bring out specific personality traits such as competitiveness and impulsiveness. During the study, they reported on the mood changes they felt.

The results showed that there seemed to be no differences in people’s personalities, and the only thing that changed was an increase in extroversion and loudness. Dr. Rachel Winograd, a psychological scientist, said,

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.

In short, drunk people are more likely to be sociable, but everything else more or less stays the same. For example, the researchers were not able to see that alcohol made people less anxious, or messier. Winograd said, “Participants felt like they were really affected by alcohol, whereas observers didn’t perceive such drastic changes.”

If the study is right, this means mean drunks can’t really blame their behavior on alcohol consumption, because they probably were already mean to begin with.

The study was published in Clinical Psychological Science.

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