Drunk you is the real you, according to science

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Sarah Biddlecombe
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We’ve all been there: you wake up with a hangover and a hazy memory of the night before, and immediately blame any bad behaviour on “drunk you”.

An intoxicated version of ourselves that we like to think we have no control over, the “drunk you” excuse gets us out of all sorts of trouble: after all, that wasn’t you performing solo karaoke in the middle of the street at 4am – it was drunk you!

Unfortunately, however, it seems we may not be able to live under the cover of this ruse for much longer.

In a study published last month, scientists have well and truly debunked the “drunk you” myth with the finding that people can’t tell much of a difference in the personalities of drunk people compared to their sober selves.

The study, published in Clinical Psychological Science, asked 156 participants to describe what they thought their personalities were like, both when they were sober and when they were drunk.

The participants were then invited into the lab and half were given an alcoholic drink while half were given a soft drink. They took part in a series of games and discussions designed to show off their personalities, while observers watched from outside.

Throughout the tasks, the drinking participants reported perceived changes in their own behaviours across all five of the main personality traits (extraversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness and neuroticism).

According to the study’s authors, the intoxicated participants reported lower levels of consciousness, said they felt more open to experience and more agreeable, and that they felt more extroverted and emotionally stable.

Crucially, however, the outside observers noticed none of these changes – except that the drinking participants were more extroverted than before.

Speaking to Refinery 29, psychological scientist Rachel Winograd, who ran the study, said, “We were surprised to find such a discrepancy between drinkers' perceptions of their own alcohol-induced personalities and how observers perceived 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.”

So, that’s the end of the “drunk you” line of excuses – unless the behaviour you’re explaining away happens to be a bit of extra confidence, of course.

Images: iStock


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Sarah Biddlecombe

Sarah Biddlecombe is an award-winning journalist and Digital Commissioning Editor at Stylist. Follow her on Twitter