You may have seen articles like “the 23 Types of Drunk People You See on a Night Out,” but can changes to personality traits linked to intoxication from alcohol consumption be empirically categorized? A study in the journal Addiction Research & Theory sought to use the Five-Factor Model of personality as a framework to describe variations in “drunk personality,” identify clusters of personalities, and assess how cluster membership is linked to alcohol-related harms.
A total of 187 undergraduate “drinking buddy” pairs (mean age 18.4) were recruited for the study in which participants completed a survey on demographics, alcohol consumption patterns, alcohol-related consequences (measured with the Young Adult Alcohol Problems Screening Test), and a 50-item scale from Goldberg’s International Personality Item Pool on their own behavior when sober, behavior when drunk, their friend’s behavior when sober, and their friend’s behavior while intoxicated.
Four clusters were identified:
•This was the largest group; only slight changes in behavior were reported when intoxicated
•This group decreased less in Conscientiousness (being prepared, organized, prompt) and Intellect (being imaginative, understanding abstract ideas) than the other groups
•Not associated with experiencing more alcohol-related consequences
•Encapsulates the majority of drinkers that do not undergo drastic changes or experience harm while drinking
2. Mr. Hyde
•This group had larger than average alcohol-related decreases in Conscientiousness, Intellect, and Agreeableness
•Compared to the other groups, this group tended to be less intellectual, more hostile, and less responsible under the influence of alcohol compared to when they are sober
•Only group that was statistically more likely to have alcohol consequences, indicating that they are more likely to incur acute harm (memory blackout, being arrested for drunken behavior) and have less pleasing personality characteristics when they drink
3. Mary Poppins
•14% of the sample were classified in this group
•When sober this group is highly Agreeable; when intoxicated, this group decreases less than average in Conscientiousness, Intellect, and Agreeableness
•This group reported fewer alcohol consequences overall compared to the Mr. Hyde group
•Considered the sweet, responsible drinkers who experience less alcohol-related problems versus those that are most affected
4. The Nutty Professor
•This group tended to be introverted when sober but showed an increase in Extraversion and decrease in Conscientiousness when drunk
•Compared to the other groups, this cluster had the biggest discrepancy between reported sober and drunk five-factor model traits
•However, this group was not associated with having experienced more alcohol-related consequences
•While the personality change for this group was most dramatic, this cluster was not associated with increased harm, possibly due to the fact that the mean drunk levels for these traits, while different from their sober levels, were still within normal range
This is the first empirical investigation into unique personality changes due to intoxication from alcohol consumption. While not all personality types had a risk of experiencing negative consequences from drinking, tempering alcohol consumption is advised for anyone regardless of “drunk personality.”
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