There are four types of drinker – which one are you?
Generally people drink to either increase positive emotions or decrease negative ones.
It’s easy to see alcohol consumption being a result of thousands of years of ritual and a lifetime of habit. But have you ever stopped to consider why it is you choose to drink? Knowing what motivates people to drink is important to better understanding their needs when it comes to encouraging them to drink less, or in a less harmful way.
The four types
Personally, everyone can come up with many reasons why he or she is drinking, which makes a scientific understanding of the reasons difficult. But there is something called the motivational model of alcohol use, that argues we drink because we expect a change in how we feel after we do. Originally developed to help treat alcohol dependence, the ideas described in the model led to a new understanding of what motivates people to drink.
More precisely, the model assumes people drink to increase positive feelings or decrease negative ones. They’re also motivated by internal rewards such as enhancement of a desired personal emotional state, or by external rewards such as social approval.
This results in all drinking motives falling into one of four categories: enhancement (because it’s exciting), coping (to forget about my worries), social (to celebrate), and conformity (to fit in). Drinkers can be high or low in any number of drinking motives – people are not necessarily one type of drinker or the other.
All other factors – such as genetics, personality or environment – are just shaping our drinking motives, according to this model. So drinking motives are a final pathway to alcohol use. That is, they’re the gateway through which all these other influences are channelled.
1. Social drinking
To date, nearly all the research on drinking motives has been done on teens and young adults. Across cultures and countries, social motives are the most common reason young people give for drinking alcohol. In this model, social drinking may be about increasing the amount of fun you are having with your friends. This fits in with the idea that drinking is mainly a social pastime. Drinking for social motives is associated with moderate alcohol use.
2. Drinking to conform
When people only drink on social occasions because they want to fit in – not because it’s a choice they would normally make – they drink less than those who drink mainly for other reasons. These are the people who will sip a glass of champagne for a toast, or keep a wine in their hand to avoid feeling different from the drinkers around them.
In the last couple of years, programs like Hello Sunday Morning have been encouraging people to take a break from drinking. And by making this more socially acceptable, they may also be decreasing the negative feedback some people receive for not drinking, although this is a theory that needs testing.
3. Drinking for enhancement
Beyond simply drinking to socialise, there are two types of adolescents and young adults with a particular risky combination of personality and drinking motive preference.
First are those who drink for enhancement motives. They are more likely to be extroverted, impulsive, and aggressive. These young people (often male) are more likely to actively seek to feel drunk – as well as other extreme sensations – and have a risk-taking personality.
4. Drinking to cope
Second, those who drink mainly for coping motives have higher levels of neuroticism, low level of agreeableness and a negative view of the self. These drinkers may be using alcohol to cope with other problems in their life, particularly those related to anxiety and depression. Coping drinkers are more likely to be female, drink more heavily and experience more alcohol-related problems than those who drink for other reasons.
While it may be effective in the short term, drinking to cope with problems leads to worse long-term consequences. This may be because the problems that led to the drinking in the first place are not being addressed.
Why it matters
There is promising research that suggests knowing the motives of heavy drinkers can lead to interventions to reduce harmful drinking. For instance, one study found that tailoring counselling sessions to drinking motives decreased consumption in young women, although there was no significant decrease in men.
This research stream is limited by the fact we really only know about the drinking motives of those in their teens and early 20s. Our understanding of why adults are drinking is limited, something our research group is hoping to study in the future.
Next time you have a drink, have a think about why you are choosing to do so. There are many people out there having a drink at night to relax. But if you’re aiming to get drunk, you have a higher chance than most of experiencing harm.
Alternatively, if you are trying to drink your problems away, it’s worth remembering those problems will still be there in the morning.
What do we see from watching birds move across the country?
- A total of eight billion birds migrate across the U.S. in the fall.
- The birds who migrate to the tropics fair better than the birds who winter in the U.S.
- Conservationists can arguably use these numbers to encourage the development of better habitats in the U.S., especially if temperatures begin to vary in the south.
The migration of birds — and we didn't even used to know that birds migrated; we assumed they hibernated; the modern understanding of bird migration was established when a white stork landed in a German village with an arrow from Central Africa through its neck in 1822 — draws us in the direction of having an understanding of the world. A bird is here and then travels somewhere else. Where does it go? It's a variation on the poetic refrain from The Catcher in the Rye. Where do the ducks go? How many are out there? What might it encounter along the way?
While there is a yearly bird count conducted every Christmas by amateur bird watchers across the country done in conjunction with The Audubon Society, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology recently released the results of a study that actually go some way towards answering heretofore abstract questions: every fall, as per cloud computing and 143 weather radar stations, four billion birds migrate into the United States from Canada and four billion more head south to the tropics.
"In the spring," the lead author Adriaan Dokter noted, "3.5 billion birds cross back into the U.S. from points south, and 2.6 billion birds return to Canada across the northern U.S. border."
In other words: the birds who went three to four times further than the birds staying in the U.S. faired better than the birds who stayed in the U.S. Why?
Part of the answer could be very well be what you might hear from a conservationist — only with numbers to back it up: the U.S. isn't built for birds. As Ken Rosenberg, the other co-author of the study, notes: "Birds wintering in the U.S. may have more habitat disturbances and more buildings to crash into, and they might not be adapted for that."
The other option is that birds lay more offspring in the U.S. than those who fly south for the winter.
What does observing eight billion birds mean in practice? To give myself a counterpoint to those numbers, I drove out to the Joppa Flats Education Center in Northern Massachusetts. The Center is a building that sits at the entrance to the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge and overlooks the Merrimack River, which is what I climbed the stairs up to the observation deck to see.
Once there, I paused. I took a breath. I listened. I looked out into the distance. Tiny flecks Of Bonaparte's Gulls drew small white lines across the length of the river and the wave of the grass toward a nearby city. What appeared to be flecks of double-crested cormorants made their way to the sea. A telescope downstairs enabled me to watch small gull-like birds make their way along the edges of the river, quietly pecking away at food just beneath the surface of the water. This was the experience of watching maybe half a dozen birds over fifteen-to-twenty minutes, which only served to drive home the scale of birds studied.
Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.
- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
- Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
- Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
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