Does your personality change when you become intoxicated? Not as much as you think — many of the mood and behavioral changes following alcohol intake may not be as apparent to other people, a new study reveals.

Conducted by a team from University of Missouri, the research found that while drinkers may find a difference between their sober and drunk selves, people surrounding them actually describe that the two personalities are quite similar.

Only Certain Personality Changes Surfaced

Study author and clinical psychologist Rachel Winograd said that they found it surprising to see such discrepancy between drinkers’ perception of their drunk selves and how an observer perceives them.

"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,” explained Winograd in a statement.

Subjects and their raters were considered both right and wrong and that the differences may simply come down to natural discrepancies in point of view, she added.

To better understand this, the team ventured to find out how apparent alcohol-induced personality changes were to external observers. They recruited 156 study participants to drink vodka-and-Sprites in the lab for $10 each hour. Two weeks before, they used a 50-item questionnaire so the subjects can self-report their usual sober and drunk personality traits.

In the experiment where half were given an alcohol-containing drink while half received only soda, the subjects played different games to make personality expressions come out. Twice, they self-reported alcohol-induced mood changes in them.

The observers only saw certain changes from the outside, namely the subjects getting more friendly or assertive. Specifically, subjects who had consumed alcohol were rated higher on three facets of extraversion: gregariousness, assertiveness, as well as levels of activity.

The researchers argued that since extraversion is the most outwardly visible personality factor, both parties would most likely notice differences in this trait.

The observers, for one, did not observe people becoming more anxious or less neurotic and did not perceive drastic changes even if the subjects felt truly affected by the alcohol.

Study Insights

The findings make the concept of “drunk personality” less clear. However, they may prove useful for those worrying over how other perceive them when they drink.

“What we think about ourselves may not always be what other people see, for better or worse,” Winograd said in a Newsweek report.

Winograd hopes to replicate the experience in people’s natural drinking environments, seeking ways for the individualized feedback to enhance alcohol intervention treatments.

These findings could help fill current gaps, according to psychologist Catharine Fairbairn, who wasn’t part of the study. Scientists, she said, are not focusing much on alcohol-linked personality changes despite how drunk personalities clue in on underlying alcohol issues.

Psychologists largely categorize drunk personalities into four: the Hemingways with no apparent personality change regardless of alcohol intake; the Mary Poppins and their nicer drunk selves; the Mr. Hyde and their increased hostility; and the Nutty Professor with their enhanced extroversion.

Regardless of one’s drunk personality, information from studies like this is hoped to help slash the negative effects of alcohol on human health and lives.

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