Drinking Transforms Your Personality Less Than You Think

You might think that drinking drastically changes your personality, but a study from the University of Missouri shows that's not necessarily true. Tara Moore/Getty Images
You might think that drinking drastically changes your personality, but a study from the University of Missouri shows that's not necessarily true. Tara Moore/Getty Images

Does drinking give you more confidence? Make you the life of the party? If you answered yes, you're not alone. It's a pretty common belief that drinking alcohol transforms us into different people. But the changes may not be as drastic as you think.

That's what a recent study from researchers at the University of Missouri discovered. Its findings show that who we think we become after throwing back a few brewskies isn't necessarily what others see. And those differences in sober and drunken behaviors could help diagnose someone with a drinking problem.


The study, led by clinical psychologist Rachel Winograd, compared how people view themselves when they drink to how others see them. The research concluded that our "drunk" personalities may not be that different from our sober ones. The study was published in Clinical Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Participants included 156 people who first took personality tests in which they described their typical sober and drunk personality traits. Two weeks later they returned to the lab. Then groups of three and four people sat together where half were given vodka and Sprite cocktails, while the other half drank just soda. The cocktails were made to give the participants a blood alcohol content of about .09.

As the groups drank, they played a variety of games to gauge how well they bonded and how impulsive they were. Twice during the monitored study, the participants filled out questionnaires that asked about mood changes as they became more intoxicated. Researchers also videotaped the study as 30 research assistants rated personality changes they noticed.

The results of the questionnaires showed that after drinking, participants noted they had changed in all five of the major personality factors: lower levels of conscientiousness, openness to experience, and agreeableness, and they reported higher levels of extraversion and emotional stability (the inverse of neuroticism). This wasn't a surprise to the researchers.

What was a surprise was that the observers noticed fewer differences in both the sober and drunk participants' personalities. However, the observers noted changes in the drunk participants' extraversion traits. In other words, those who were drinking became more gregarious and assertive (go figure!). Other personality changes, such as anxiousness and conscientiousness, were hard to spot. In other words, drinkers said they felt like alcohol affected their personalities drastically, but the observers didn't see those changes.

"Of course, we also would love to see these findings replicated outside of the lab — in bars, at parties and in homes where people actually do their drinking," said Winograd in a statement. "Most importantly, we need to see how this work is most relevant in the clinical realm and can be effectively included in interventions to help reduce any negative impact of alcohol on peoples' lives."

The main takeaway from the study is while you may think you're funnier, happier, and even more agreeable when you drink, your friends may see the same old sober you.