When you’re drunk, one of the hardest things to do is to determine how drunk you are. Once in a blue moon, you achieve that wonderful moment of clarity when you declare, “I’m drunk. I should go home,” and then you actually do. However, an equally possible scenario is that you say, “I’m totally fine,” and then immediately crash through a coffee table Chris Farley-style.
But now science may have a bit of an explanation for this phenomenon. Turns out determining how drunk you are might be especially tricky because drunkenness depends, not just on how drunk we are, but on how drunk others are as well. According to a study published yesterday in the journal BMC Public Health, “people base judgements regarding their drinking on how their level of intoxication ranks relative to that of others of the same gender around them, not on their actual levels of intoxication.” To put it simply, drunk people make you feel more drunk. I guess that means if you want to get drunker without the hangover, don’t buy yourself a shot, buy your friends a shot.
The British research team behind the study came to their conclusion after going to bars and pubs on Friday and Saturday nights (tough gig) and breathalyzing 1,862 people with an average age of about 27. From there, 400 of those drinkers answered four questions including how drunk they thought they were. In the end, the study determined, “when in the company of others who are intoxicated, drinkers were found to be more likely to underestimate their own level of drinking, drunkenness and associated risks.”
The researchers believe these findings could be helpful to reduce excessive alcohol consumption, especially because of another interesting discovery: Sober people had a greater influence on making people feel more sober than drunk people had at making people feel more drunk. (The non-scientific word for this is a “buzzkill.”) “We could either work to reduce the number of very drunk people in a drinking environment, or we could increase the number of people who are sober,” said Cardiff University’s Simon Moore, one of the study’s authors, according to the Daily Mail. “Our theory predicts the latter approach would have greatest impact.”
Unfortunately, the people behind the study didn’t really go into how they plan on convincing more sober people to hang out with a bunch of drunks. Maybe they can get some of their fellow scientists to start working on some sort of sober person kidnapping machine.