People have long been aware of alcohol’s ability to bring out a side that others never knew existed. Now a study in this month’s Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin has drawn, for all to see, the side displayed on our minds’ Special Edition Mitt Romney Etch-a-Sketch.
Ladies and gentlemen, you read it here in SickScience first – there’s a new disease out there, and not even Alcoholics Anonymous can drown it out. I’m coining it alcoholic elephantitis – and no drinker is safe.
In a nutshell, the study found that the more inebriated subjects became, the more likely they were to sympathize with conservative ideologies. This trend was visible in both Democrats and Republicans alike, hence the name alcoholic elephantitis – while your body dons a proverbial “beer jacket”, your brain looks more like Rick Santorum in a “shots sweater-vest”.
Cuttingly titled “Low-Effort Thought Promotes Political Conservatism”, the research is propelled by the notion that liberal opinions require more “effortful reasoning”, as their formation accounts for practical considerations while overriding thoughtless, simplistic judgments. As a similar study conducted by the University of Illinois at Chicago states,
“…liberals and conservatives may be equally inclined to make personal attributions for why the poor are poor, why criminals engage in crime, and why obese people are obese. Where they may differ is in their motivation to correct these first-pass attributions… Liberals tend to focus on situational or institutional explanations for things, whereas conservatives tend to focus on personal explanations.”
Here’s how it worked. The researchers (from the Universities of Arkansas, Kansas, and Wisconsin-Eau Claire, respectively) measured eighty-five participants’ blood alcohol content (BAC) with a breathalyzer outside a New England bar. The subjects then filled out a questionnaire that gauged their acceptance of conservativism (e.g. a 1-9 scale of “Strongly disagree” to “Strongly agree” with statements such as “Production and trade should be free of government interference”). The goal was to probe subjects’ sense of personal responsibility, acceptance of hierarchy, and preference for the status quo – three tent poles of conservative ideology.
In addition to the bar, the questionnaire was also given to a total of 108 subjects in a work setting, minus the breathalyzer, to see if variables like time alloted for response or cognitive load (distraction with a second, simultaneous task) also resulted in a conservative shift. Sure enough, people were more likely to agree with the statements when their cognition was distracted or rushed into making quick, “easy” responses.
The idea, however, isn’t to use these results to paint conservatives as shortsighted, brainless pricks. It’s meant to highlight how people from every color, creed, age, and gender approach opinion-making differently, and to map out our brains’ homeostatic position by employing real-life, culturally salient means to induce a mental knee-jerk response.
Santorum, despite being repugnantly radical, actually was essentially correct when he described universities as places of “indoctrination” into the “image” of Democratic professors. It’s true – clearly, the more time you spend thinking about, gaining perspective on, and researching issues, the more liberal you’ll become. Consequently, Iowa City and other liberal campuses across the nation drink enough beer to float the entire U.S. Naval fleet on any given weekend – proof that most of us students, deep down, need an escape from weeklong intellectual construction by framing mindless Saturday nights at the bar with that Etch-a-Sketch. Good thing we can shake it away on the Sunday morning “walk of shame” and start anew with a clean slate.
Mike McGinn is a registered independent in Johnson County.
Images from: photoshopthenews.com, weknowmemes.com, politico.com