You know how crazy your friends get when they drink a vodka Red Bull? Well, don't tell them, but a lot of that might just be a placebo effect. Researchers at the University of British Columbia, University of Michigan, and at Paris's INSEAD found in a recent study that when they called the drink a "Vodka-Red Bull cocktail", participants acted noticeably more impulsive than when they were told they were drinking just a "Vodka cocktail" or an "Exotic fruits" cocktail. (It's worth mentioning that mixing alcohol with energy drinks, when you don't know what you're drinking, doesn't actually make you feel any drunker.)
The study looked at 154 straight men from Paris. Why straight men? "Because one of our variables of interest was male sexual self-confidence toward women." Uh, okay. The participants were given a cocktail of Smirnoff, Red Bull Silver Edition, and a Caraïbos exotic fruit juice. Then they were given tests of their sexual self-confidence and their sexual aggressiveness. Participants who were told they were drinking the Vodka-Red Bull cocktail felt more sexually self-confident with attractive women (although, thankfully, not more sexually aggressive). Seems like the lesson is that next time you're getting a drink with your most insecure single friend, you should get him a fruity cocktail and tell him it's a Vodka-Red Bull.
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The risk-taking behavior was measured with a Balloon Analogue Risk Task (BART), because science is always better with balloons. Basically, you pump a virtual balloon, which will explode after a random number of pumps, but the more times you pump it without it exploding, the more money you get. Sure enough, people who were told they'd drunk the "Vodka-Red Bull cocktail" were riskier. So, if you don't want anyone to end up on the roof or in a public fountain, keep your friends away from the Vodka-Red Bulls. Because you can't blame everything on the alcohol.