How Sober People Influence Drunk People

We perceive how drunk we are based on those around us, and sober people make us more aware
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 14, 2016 7:44 AM CDT
How Sober People Influence Drunk People
A man buys beer in an outdoor bar at Caracas's auto show, Sunday, Oct 7, 2007. Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez is on a moral crusade, preaching against vices from alcohol to cholesterol, vowing to curb whisky imports and ordering beer trucks off the street.   (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Think you're a good judge of your own level of inebriation while drinking? Think again. Researchers report in the journal BMC Public Health that our perception of just how intoxicated we are shifts depending on those around us, so much so that we think we're less drunk when around people who are more so, and we think we're more drunk when around those who are sober. In other words, as Ars Technica warns, "We now have solid scientific evidence that people are completely unable to determine how soused they are when drinking with a group." To test this, a team from Cardiff University in Wales ventured out into the city's top party spots between 8pm and 3am and measured 1,862 adults' blood alcohol levels.

They then asked 400 participants to rank how drunk they were on a scale of 1 to 10, as well as how extreme their drinking that night had been. When they compared the bar-hoppers' assessments with their BAC levels, they found that people rated their own drunkenness based on how drunk they perceived those around them to be, and that "people in drinking environments make decisions to drink more on the basis of their observation of people around them." As for how your friends influence you: "It appears that drinkers are more self-aware of their own level of intoxication when in the presence of those who are sober," researchers write. One researcher says in a press release that the "greatest impact" on reducing excessive drinking would likely be to introduce sober ambassadors rather than trying to reduce the number of drinkers. (Check out these sober stars.)

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