Part of Red Bull and Vodka's Allure Could Be a Placebo
According to a new study.
For years, ordering a Vodka Red Bull has been a telltale sign that you’re looking to have a rowdy night. But next time you want to rage, you don’t need the world’s most popular energy drink to do it: A recently published study suggests that simply seeing a label stating that they had Red Bull mixed in with their vodka made young men “feel more intoxicated, daring, and sexually self-confident.”
In a study at Paris’s INSEAD Sorbonne University Behavioral Lab, 154 young men were told they would be drinking a cocktail made of an energy drink, vodka and fruit juice; however, despite consuming identical drinks, different participants were shown different labels – Red Bull & vodka, a vodka cocktail or a fruit juice cocktail. Amazingly, those who partook in the drinks labeled with Red Bull perceived their intoxication level to be 51 percent higher compared to the other groups. Additionally, in computer simulations, the Red Bull crew said they felt more confident talking to women and took bigger risks in a gambling game.
“Red Bull has long used the slogan ‘Red Bull gives you wings,’ but our study shows that this type of advertising can make people think it has intoxicating qualities when it doesn't,” said lead author Yann Cornil. “Essentially, when alcohol is mixed with an energy drink and people are aware of it, they feel like they're more intoxicated simply because the marketing says they should feel that way.” Co-author Pierre Chandon pointed out that though this might be a “placebo” effect, the effect is still real to those experiencing it and is something energy drink makers need to consider. “Beliefs that people have about a product can be just as important as the ingredients of the product itself,” said Chandon. “Regulations and codes of conduct should consider the psychological—and not just physiological—effects of products.”
Meanwhile, the researchers also found a silver lining: Believing that they were more intoxicated also caused the Red Bull group to be more reluctant to drive, leading them to wait on average 14 minutes longer than the others before intending to get behind the wheel. Not discussed, however, is if that’s because these participants believed they could use their Red Bull wings to simply fly home.