Why Is This Important?
Because it may explain why drinking with your bros is such a bonding experience -- and maybe why men tend to drink more than women.
Long Story Short
Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh wanted to see if alcoholic beverages really lift the spirits of a group of people. It turns out they do, but not the way you'd think: In groups of men (and only men), consuming alcoholic beverages makes smiles more "contagious."
Ever wonder why sitting around shooting the bull with your friends over a few (or a bunch of) beers feels so... good? So did researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, so they conducted an experiment to test the effects of alcohol on the emotional levels of people in groups. The results? When it comes to drinking, guys just seem to have more fun.
The study included 720 participants divided into groups of three. Some were given a vodka cranberry, some an explicitly non-alcoholic drink, and others a "placebo" - a non-alcoholic drink with just enough vodka coating the glass to make it seem like a standard-issue cocktail.
The researchers then observed the groups, looking for genuine smiles (and how quickly they were adopted by other members of the group) as proof of social bonding. They were testing something called "emotional contagion," an effect seen in humans and other mammals where an individual's emotional state is affected by the facial expressions of those around him.
They found that when alcohol was a factor, smiles went viral - but only in all-male groups. Mixed groups and all-female groups showed no increased virality with the introduction of alcohol. In fact, all-female groups bonded just as well sober as the men did when drinking. While this shows that drinking appears to be more "fun" for us guys, it's also dangerous in the sense that the social bonds promoted by drinking could reinforce overconsumption in social settings.
For most of us, this isn't surprising. We're conditioned to be somewhat stoic (particularly in the presence of other men), bonding over shared experience rather than emotional connection. It's not exactly revolutionary to say that sometimes we need a little "social lubricant" to be more expressive and vulnerable around men we don't know well.
Own The Conversation
Ask The Big Question: What does it say about us as a gender that we need booze to have as much fun with each other as women do sober?
Disrupt Your Feed: Looks like science has given me a free pass to over-indulge at my college reunion this year.
Drop This Fact: The average price for a beer at an NFL game this year is $7.53 (and as high as $10.75 in San Francisco, because of course). Looks like dudes will pay a premium to bond with their fellow fans!
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