Why the 'I was drunk' excuse is no longer valid

LIVIA GAMBLE
Last updated 11:13 20/08/2014
Drunk

THE AFTERMATH: It turns out we do know what we're doing when drunk, but we just aren't thinking about the consequences.

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From shooting your mouth off to texting your ex, we've all blamed alcohol for our actions at some point.

It turns out, the age-old excuse, "I was drunk", is no longer valid.

According to a study titled Alcohol Effects On Performance Monitoring and Adjustment: Affect Modulation and Impairment of Evaluative Cognitive Control, alcohol doesn't limit our ability to know what's right and wrong, instead, it takes away our capacity to care.

The study, involving 67 adults between the ages of 21 and 35 years, set out to identify how alcohol influences our ability to detect mistakes.

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You meant what you said 

Researchers from the University of Missouri split the participants into three groups and randomly assigned each person with either: a non-alcoholic drink, an alcoholic drink or a placebo. They were then asked to complete an error recognition task on a computer and their response to failure was measured.

Lead author of the study, Professor Bruce Bartholow found that alcohol did not influence awareness of an incorrect response.

In fact, all three groups were aware when they made an error but the group given alcohol weren't as concerned.

"In tasks like the one we used, although we encourage people to try to respond as quickly as possible, it is very common for people to respond more slowly following an error, as a way of trying to regain self-control", Professor Bartholow said. "That's what we saw in our placebo group. The alcohol group participants didn't do this."

Professor Bartholow puts their lack of concern down to alcohol muffling an "alarm signal" that would normally make you consider what you're about to do or say. 

In other words, we know what we are doing when drunk but we aren't thinking about the consequences.

Why we drunk dial

Similarly, research by Amber Ferris and Erin Hollenbaugh, titled Drinking and Dialing: An Exploratory Study of Why College Students Make Cell Phone Calls While Intoxicated discovered the "motives" behind why we drunk dial.

Motives included people having more confidence, wanting to tell people how drunk they are, to confess their love, to talk to friends they haven't seen in a while "and see how they are doing" and lastly, to initiate sex.

While telling someone you love and miss them could have a positive effect on a relationship, many of the participants said they didn't enjoy being on the receiving end of a drunk call, "especially while sleeping".

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In defence of drunk-talk, as well as lowering our care-factor, alcohol exaggerates our emotions. 

According to the American Association for Advancement of Science, "Alcohol may affect emotions, leading to crying, fighting or a desire to be close to another person".

Agreeing with this, in her article Can alcohol act as a truth serum?, Hanny Lerida says, "The more inebriated a person gets, the more affected the brain gets."

"If you are happy before drinking, you will become more happy. While, those who are feeling down before they start to drink end up becoming very upset," she said.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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