Do Alcohol Ads Make You Racist?

By Valerie Tejeda 03/30/12

Even looking at pictures of alcoholic drinks can have a disinhibiting effect that brings out the worst in some.

Disinhibition can start with the eye.
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Alcoholic images may bring out inner racial bias, according to new research published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. University of Missouri researcher Bruce Bartholow has previously conducted studies on how alcohol can ignite inner racism; now he's demonstrated that even just looking at photos of alcohol can have the same effect. Study participants were asked to view a series of magazine ads for either alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages. After viewing the ads, the participants took a computerized association test in which pictures of black and white men's faces were briefly shown, followed immediately by a picture of a handgun or a tool. While racial bias was present in both groups, those who viewed the liquor ads were more likely to associate guns with African American faces. Why? Bartholow believes that just looking at alcohol allows people to loosen up subconsciously. "In a bar where people are drinking, talk gets looser and people say things they normally wouldn't say," he explains. "What seems acceptable in that environment might not be at work or church. Possibly what's happening here is people are loosening their standards and allowing automatic beliefs about groups that they try hard to control in other situations."

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Entertainment journalist and author Valerie Tejeda spends her days reporting on books, television, and all things pertaining to pop culture, and spends her nights writing novels for teens. Her stories have appeared on a variety of different publications, including but not limited to: VanityFair, MTV, The Huffington Post, TeenVogue, She Knows, Latina, The Fix,, Cosmopolitan, and more. You can find Valerie on Linkedin and Twitter.