Alcohol doesn’t turn people into dickheads, dickheads turn to alcohol

I’ve always wondered why some people become such violent sods when drinking. My theory has long been that alcohol just brings out the more “authentic” you. So if you were violent when drunk, you were a violent person and used alcohol as an excuse. If you were promiscuous when drunk, you were a promiscuous person and used alcohol as an excuse.

Kate Fox (author of Watching the English, which should be required reading for everyone) has an interesting piece over at BBC offering a more subtle and more correct reading of why alcohol makes us act as we act.

To put it very simply, the experiments show that when people think they are drinking alcohol, they behave according to their cultural beliefs about the behavioural effects of alcohol… We become more outspoken, more physically demonstrative, more flirtatious, and, given enough provocation, some (young males in particular) become aggressive. Quite specifically, those who most strongly believe that alcohol causes aggression are the most likely to become aggressive when they think that they have consumed alcohol.

Our beliefs about the effects of alcohol act as self-fulfilling prophecies – if you firmly believe and expect that booze will make you aggressive, then it will do exactly that. In fact, you will be able to get roaring drunk on a non-alcoholic placebo.