Courtesy of MCT
If you’re the type of person who gets aggressive when you’ve had too much to drink, one study says you shouldn’t blame it on the alcohol. Chances are, you lack a trait that allows consideration of future consequences.
This is according to a recent study conducted at the University of Kentucky by Ohio State psychology professor Brad Bushman, who was the lead author of the study. University of Kentucky professor Peter Giancola co-authored the study along with Dominic Parrott, associate professor of psychology at Georgia State University, and Robert Roth, associate professor of psychiatry at Darmouth Medical School.
“People who tend to focus on the future are not very aggressive,” Bushman said. “And it doesn’t really matter if they’re drunk or sober. Whereas people who focus on the here-and-now, they’re more aggressive than others but especially when they’re intoxicated.”
Bushman called the combination of alcohol and the inability to control one’s impulses a “double whammy.”
Bushman, who specializes in conducting studies surrounding violence and aggression, said he was not surprised by the results.
“Both alcohol intoxication and the failure to consider future consequences are related to what we call cognitive executive functioning,” Bushman said. “That’s the functions in your brain that look at things like your ability to reason and make good judgments and alcohol wipes that out … We didn’t know for sure, but we predicted the combination would lead to the highest level of aggression and it did.”
Ben Stickney, a fifth-year in construction systems management, said he agrees with the results of the study.
“People who are aggressive will tend to be aggressive when they’re drunk.” Stickney said. “I’m a pretty happy person to begin with and I’m a happy drunk, so I think (alcohol) enhances whatever you’re feeling and you’re good at.”
Bushman and his colleagues conducted the study over the course of a year, with 500 participants with an average age of 23.
Participants were asked to complete a “consideration of future consequences scale.” The questionnaire asked participants whether they agreed with statements such as “my behavior is only influenced by the immediate outcomes of my actions.” Answers to the questionnaire determined the aggressive nature of participants.
Participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups; one group was given an alcoholic beverage while the other group was given a placebo (non-alcoholic) drink.
All participants were then told they were competing in a computer game against another same-sex contender. Winners would be given the opportunity to administer electric shock to the loser.
According to the press release, participants had a total of 34 trials, participants were told they had “won” half the games and “lost” the other half. Bushman and his colleagues randomly determined these results.
With every loss, participants received an electric shock from their “opponents.” The duration of the shocks varied in length, but the purpose of the electric shocks was to see how participants would retaliate. Participants who turned out to be of the here-and-now type retaliated by administering shocks to their opponents longer than participants who thought about the future.
“The most aggressive people in our study were those who were drunk and didn’t think about their consequences,” Bushman said.
Bushman’s advice to individuals who behave irrationally when intoxicated is to refrain from consuming alcohol altogether.
“If you’re the kind of the person that thinks about the here-and-now, you should avoid drinking alcohol especially in situations that could lead to fights,” Bushman said. “And if you know somebody like that then you should avoid them when they’re drunk.”
Katie Soehnlen, a fourth-year in food business management, said she does her best to avoid aggressive drunks.
“I’m a pretty passive person, so I just stay up against the wall and walk away.” Soehnlen said. “I try not to affiliate with those people.”