How Much Does Your Personality Actually Change When You're Drunk?

By Kelly Burch 05/22/17

A new study examined whether alcohol has any impact on an individual's personality.

drunk businessman with tie on his head and a glass in his hand

After a particularly eventful night out drinking, people often try to explain away their behavior by saying: blame it on the alcohol.

But despite this common defense, a new study has found that there is actually little difference between a person’s sober personality and their persona when they’ve been drinking. 

According to a study published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, observers didn’t notice a large shift in personality in people who have been drinking, despite the fact that people often report feeling as if they have a big shift in personality once they start imbibing. 

“For better or worse, people don’t see your ‘drunk personality’ to the extent that you would experience it,” study author Rachel Winograd, an assistant professor of research at the University of Missouri’s St. Louis-Missouri Institute of Mental Health, told Yahoo Beauty

For the study, 156 people described their typical drunk and typical sober personalities. Then, half the group was given alcoholic drinks until they had a blood alcohol level of about .09, while the other half remained sober. Researchers reported on individuals' personalities, without knowing who was drunk and who was sober.

The researchers didn’t see a big difference, despite the fact that drunk people were more likely to describe themselves as less conscientious and agreeable, and more extroverted and emotionally stable.

"We were surprised to find such a discrepancy between drinkers' perceptions of their own alcohol-induced personalities and how observers perceived them," Winograd said in a press release. "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.”

The researchers did observe that the people who had been drinking were indeed more outgoing. “Drunk people were seen as more extroverted—they were more gregarious, assertive, and participated in the conversation more,” Winograd told Yahoo

Winograd is interested in seeing if the results would be the same in a less controlled environment. "Of course, we also would love to see these findings replicated outside of the lab—in bars, at parties, and in homes where people actually do their drinking," she said.

Ultimately, she hopes the research will help individuals and clinicians better understand how to mitigate the negative effects of alcohol. 

"Most importantly, we need to see how this work is most relevant in the clinical realm and can be effectively included in interventions to help reduce any negative impact of alcohol on peoples' lives,” she said.

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.