Saturday, June 30, 2012

Alcohol: a great way to make friends

What alcohol does with a human being is quite well-known, and not everything it induces in terms of human behaviour is agreeable. Still, most of us like to drink a couple of alcoholic beverages in company of others. Scientists from the University of Pittsburgh have now scientifically proven that drinking alcohol together with other people does make things better. They showed that consumption makes positive things more positive, while negative emotions are toned down.

A group of 720 male and female participants were enlisted to investigate the effect of alcohol consumption on emotions, while drinking in a group. As an experiment, they set up groups of three people (either two male, one female, or vice versa), consisting of individuals that were not previously acquainted. While they were socializing, the participants were instructed to drink alcoholic beverages, although some people were given a placebo or a non-alcoholic beverage to serve as a control. All the 'sessions' were recorded on video, and the participants were given three drinks in the course of about half an hour.

After analyzing the videos of people socializing over drinks, the scientists found that the groups in which participants consumed alcoholic beverages had 'true' smiles during the session. Additionally, these smiles were coordinated, meaning people were basically laughing together; a sign of true bonding. Additionally, the individuals themselves also reported a higher degree of social bonding compared to the other groups, that were served non-alcoholic beverages. It was also found to be more likely that all three members in the 'alcohol groups' kept participating to the conversation during the entire session.

To sum up, the scientists believe that alcohol increases the degree of bonding in a group of people. It seems more likely to have fun with friends, or make friends, when consuming alcoholic beverages. While it is generally known that, until a certain limit, drinking makes you feel good, that does not directly explain why alcohol reinforces the bonding process. According to the scientists, it calls for more research, in order to elucidate so-called socioemotional responses to alcohol. As for now, it seems that serving alcoholic drinks during social events is advisable to 'smoothen' things out a little bit, although regular and heavy alcohol consumption is of course still a bad idea. It is however not the first time alcohol was associated with something positive: moderate consumption was found to reduce the risk of asthma.

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