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.


5 thoughts on “Alcohol doesn’t turn people into dickheads, dickheads turn to alcohol

    1. I’m not sure.

      Firstly, it is ethically dubious to give someone alcohol without their consent.

      Secondly, it may be easier to notice the effects of alcohol and to switch to socially “approved” behaviour than in the opposite experiment.

  1. I’m sceptical of this. I know people who think alcohol makes them sex Gods and let me tell you – drooling, ranting imbeciles aren’t turn-ons.

    1. But to what extent did the booze do that and to what extent did your friends change their behaviour because they knew they could get away with it.

      I know far more English, Irish and American people who turn into “drooling, ranting imbeciles” than I do Italians, Spaniards etc. And I know a fair few of both (not statistically significant, I’m not that popular) because I’m at a very international uni.

  2. There’s certainly pretty decent evidence that alcohol does nat ’cause’ domestic violence, but that it’s used as a handy excuse. See for a frew references

    Strangely, when I raised these findings as a councillor commenting on our local draft domestic violence strategy (of course, the only councillor to bother doing so) I was politely told where to get off by the DV staff, I suspect because the implications of the lack of causal link are simply too much to handle, when the exisiting DV prevention paradigm largely revolves around asking blokes nicely not to batter their wives when they’ve drowned their world cup (or any other sports) sorrows, rather than dealing with the difficult stuff.

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