Alcohol: A Social Lubricant But at What Cost?
Ian Mitchell argues that alcohol may make you friendlier, but only to certain people.
Drinking alcohol is a nice way to unwind with a group of friends, and has also been known to act as a social lubricant. (Though, a past study has argued that laughter is actually a better social lubricant than alcohol.) However, Ian Mitchell writes in The Conversation that these positive effects are a nice reason to drink, but he questions its universal effectiveness, writing:
“...why do these reactions occur and are the positive effects of alcohol expressed towards everybody we interact with?”
When we drink, Mitchell explains, alcohol “binds to a specific type of receptor in the brain and boosts the activity of a natural brain chemical called GABA.” However, the effect the alcohol has on us is dependent on 1) how much we consume and 2) the location of these receptors. Mitchell explains that the alcohol acts on the GABA, boosting our dopamine levels and creating that warm fuzzy feeling — inhibiting our feelings of anxiety and, with too much, will inactivate our systems that make us feel fear.
All these factors, Mitchell says, help facilitate and ease social interactions. But while he reports studies have shown alcohol consumption can make us more empathic, more willing to trust others, and more generous, there's another side to this coin.
“Equally, alcohol can corrupt our ability to understand the intentions of others. The brain contains specific circuits, which connect parts of the prefrontal cortex, amygdala, and temporal parietal junction, that handle our social cognitive abilities. So our ability to understand somebody else’s mental perspective and their motivations for acting in a certain way become unreliable.”
What's more, he writes that we may misinterpret facial expressions and emotions. But during our alcohol-impaired states, we also gravitate toward certain people, “[bonding] to members of our in-groups. However, this may come at the cost of the way we treat people outside of these groups. Similarly, alcohol makes members of our ethnic in-group appear more attractive, but this effect does not extend to members of other ethnic groups.” In summation: Alcohol will make you friendlier, but only to certain people.
Read more at The Conversation.
Photo Credit: Kristoffer Trolle/Flickr
Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.
- Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
- At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
- Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?
- Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
- Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
- Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.
It's not just a case of "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."
- A new study suggests children who endure trauma grow up to be adults with more empathy than others.
- The effect is not universal, however. Only one kind of empathy was greatly effected.
- The study may lead to further investigations into how people cope with trauma and lead to new ways to help victims bounce back.
Do you have a magnetic compass in your head?
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.