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Social Drinking "Raises Smile Frequency"

Group drinking increases the likelihood of multiple co-occurring smiles—AKA "golden moments"—researchers say.

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A "golden moment" in action. Photo via

By Valerie Tejeda

07/02/12

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Wondering why anyone would ever want to drink? Booze increases social bonding in groups, according to new research from the University of Pittsburgh—as well as centuries of research from people at cocktail parties, teens passing around 40s in basements and legions of college students. The new study claims that alcohol can increase the frequency and enhance the coordination of smiles. The effects of solo drinking have previously been examined in more detail, but this study—published online in Psychological Science—focuses on the effects of booze on groups. "[Past] studies may have failed to create realistic conditions for studying this highly social drug," says lead author Michael A. Sayette. "We felt that many of the most significant effects of alcohol would more likely be revealed in an experiment using a social setting." Over 700 male and female participants were assessed by Sayette and his colleagues, using the Facial Action Coding System (FACS) and well as the Grouptalk model for speech behavior. Each group was instructed to drink a beverage—either alcohol or a placebo—and then assigned to different social scenarios. “Results showed that alcohol not only increased the frequency of ‘true’ smiles, but also enhanced the coordination of these smiles. In other words, alcohol enhanced the likelihood of ‘golden moments,’ with groups provided alcohol being more likely than those offered nonalcoholic beverages to have all three group members smile simultaneously,” a researcher says. “Participants in alcohol-drinking groups also likely reported greater social bonding than did the non-alcohol drinking groups and were more likely to have all three members stay involved in the discussion.” All the more reason to give time to your social life if you're sober.

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