Ever known someone who, after a few drinks, morphs in a Hulk-like fashion into a belligerent jerk with a mouth like a sailor? Studies suggest you might be able to spot them before their cocktail-induced conversion.
According to research published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, post-drink aggressive types are often the pre-drink spontaneous, live-in-the-moment types. The study surveyed and observed 495 subjects with an average age of 23 years. Half of the participants received alcohol mixed with orange juice at a 1:5 ratio; the other half were given a drink with a miniscule amount of alcohol.
Subjects were told they were part of a competition with a same-sex opponent in a computer-based speed reaction test. The winner was to deliver an electrical shock — and choose the intensity and length of it — to the loser. In reality, there was no competition. Participants were “playing” against the experimenters, and each participant “won” half of the trials, which were randomly chosen.
When they lost, they received harmless but sometimes painful shocks, which increased in intensity and duration throughout the experiment. Experimenters observed whether or not they vengefully shocked their “opponent” back when they won, and how the lengths and intensities of those shocks compared to the ones they had received.
The more impulsive, live-in-the-moment personality types tended to increase the intensity of the shocks more than the rest of the participants — especially when they were intoxicated. The “future-focused” participants weren’t significantly affected by the alcohol.
What should you do if you’re an angry drunk?
If all of this sounds familiar to you, there are precautions you can take. Sure, you can choose not to drink — and maybe you should if the aggressiveness is severe enough — but for those who feel they can control themselves with some help, here are some tips:
Pace yourself with your drinking. Try sticking with beer, preferably something on the heavier side so you drink it more slowly. Beer typically takes more time to drink than a mixed drink.
Give yourself a limit before you start drinking. Say: “Tonight I’m going to stop at two drinks.” If you feel the need to, you could even advise your friend to help you out and make sure you don’t exceed your designated number of drinks.
For every beer/cocktail you drink, guzzle a glass of water afterward. That way, you’re consuming about half the alcohol you would have consumed in that amount of time — plus, you’re countering the dehydration effects of the booze.