These Are the Four Types of Drunk College Students, According to Science

These Are the Four Types of Drunk College Students, According to Science
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According to anecdotal reports, clinical lore and internet articles like ‘‘The 12 types of drunk people you’ll encounter at a bar,’’ ‘‘The 7 kinds of drunk people you’ll find at parties,’’ and ‘‘The 9 types of drunk people (and which one you may be!),’’ not all drinkers act the same when intoxicated.

So begins Rachel Winograd's latest scientific paper, published in the journal Addiction Research and Theory. When Winograd, a psychology graduate student at the University of Missouri, perused those clickbait Internet articles, she found them devoid of scientific evidence and entirely incapable of answering the valid question they broached: Are there truly "types of drunks"?

The landscape of published scientific literature was similarly barren. Winograd and her co-authors, Douglas Steinley and Kenneth Sher couldn't find a single empirical study on the matter, so they formulated their own. The trio was treading upon new ground. It would be the first attempt to scientifically identify drunk personality types.

The work began where many psychology studies often do: in an introductory psychology class.

187 pairs of "drinking buddies" were recruited via email and invited into the laboratory, where -- in strict confidence -- they individually completed surveys covering their background, drinking behavior, and personality, both sober and drunk. Each participant also described the personality and drinking behavior of their "buddy."

With the bounty of data from the surveys, Winograd, Steinley, and Sher utilized modeling software in an attempt to identify behavioral clusters. Were there common trends buried in the responses?

Indeed there were. Four distinct clusters emerged, representing the sought-after "drunk types."

They dubbed the first "Hemingway." It was the largest type, roughly half male and half female. People under this category set themselves apart by retaining a fair amount of their mental faculties when under the influence.

"Specifically, members of this group reported decreasing less in Conscientiousness (e.g. being prepared, organized, prompt) and Intellect (e.g. understanding abstract ideas, being imaginative) than the rest of the sample," the authors wrote, "much like the author Ernest Hemingway, who claimed that he could ‘‘drink hells any amount of whiskey without getting drunk.’’"

Winograd and her partners labeled the second group "Mary Poppins." The least prevalent type, and mostly female, it described people who were particularly agreeable when sober and who remained agreeable when intoxicated.

"The Mary Poppins group of drinkers essentially captures the sweet, responsible drinkers who experience fewer alcohol-related problems compared to those most affected," the researchers described.

The third group was termed "Mr. Hyde." Members of this group -- surprisingly about two-thirds female -- were defined by "larger than average intoxication-related decreases in Conscientiousness, Intellect and Agreeableness."

"Members of this group, much like the dark-sided Mr. Hyde, reported a tendency of being particularly less responsible, less intellectual, and more hostile when under the influence of alcohol than they are when they are sober," the authors wrote, further adding that "Mr. Hydes" were more likely to incur harm from drinking, like experiencing a memory blackout, getting arrested, or sustaining an injury.

The researchers termed the fourth and final type "The Nutty Professor." About 50-50 male and female, this type described subjects who tended to be introverted when sober but became extroverts when drunk, similar to how Professor Sherman Klump transformed into Buddy Love in the movie of the same name.

The importance of these drunk types goes beyond debunking Internet clickbait, the authors say.

"These results, as well as the concept of ‘‘drunk personality’’ more broadly, hold promise for developing novel assessment-based and motivational interventions for problem drinkers."

Studying drunk personalities is deceptively tricky, and a variety of factors limit the study's findings. Most notably, self-report data can be specious, and it's possible that subjects' descriptions of themselves and their drinking buddies were predominantly affected by recent experiences. The research is a good start, however.

What type of drunk are you?

Source: Rachel Pearl Winograd, Douglas Steinley, and Kenneth Sher.  Searching for Mr. Hyde: A five-factor approach to characterizing “types of drunks.” 5 May 2015. Addiction Research and Theory. doi:10.3109/16066359.2015.1029920

(Image: Shutterstock, Disney, Paramount, Imagine Entertainment)

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