Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Alcohol makes smiles more 'contagious,' but only for men

30.09.2014

Consuming an alcoholic beverage may make men more responsive to the smiles of others in their social group, according to new research in Clinical Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The findings suggest that, for men, alcohol increases sensitivity to rewarding social behaviors like smiling, and may shed light on risk factors that contribute to problem drinking among men.

"This experimental alcohol study, which included a social context, finds the clearest evidence yet of greater alcohol reinforcement for men than women," says psychological scientist and lead researcher Catharine Fairbairn of the University of Pittsburgh.

Previous research has shown that men are about 50% more likely to drink excessively than women, and much problem drinking among men occurs in social settings.

"Many men report that the majority of their social support and social bonding time occurs within the context of alcohol consumption," says Fairbairn. "We wanted to explore the possibility that social alcohol consumption was more rewarding to men than to women — the idea that alcohol might actually 'lubricate' social interaction to a greater extent among men."

Fairbairn, Professor Michael Sayette, and their colleagues decided to focus on an objective non-verbal indicator of social bonding, examining the infectiousness of genuine smiles in drinking groups. Genuine, or Duchenne, smiles are associated with actual felt emotion as opposed to outward displays of emotion, which may or may not be genuine. Importantly, these smiles can be identified and measured using a standardized procedure.

The researchers randomly assigned 720 healthy social drinkers, ages 21 to 28, to groups of three. Each group was then randomly assigned to receive a particular drink: an alcoholic beverage (vodka cranberry), a non-alcoholic beverage, or a non-alcoholic "placebo" beverage that was described as alcoholic. The researchers smeared the glass of the fake alcoholic drink with vodka and floated a few drops of vodka on top of the drink to make it more believable.

The participants in each group were casually introduced and positioned around a table. The beverages were doled out in equal parts over time, and participants were told to drink them at an even rate. Otherwise, the participants weren't given any specific instruction and were allowed to interact freely.

Based on the video recordings, Fairbairn and colleagues used sophisticated analyses to model smiling behavior in the groups, following the spread of smiles from one individual in a group to the next.

They found that alcohol significantly increased the contagiousness of smiles, but only for all-male groups – it did not have a significant effect on emotional contagion for groups that contained any women. The findings suggest that alcohol is especially likely to induce a sort of "social bravery" among men, disrupting processes that would normally prevent them from responding to another person's smile.

Among groups who received alcoholic beverages, a smile was also more likely to be "caught" if those on the receiving end of the smile were heavier drinkers, regardless of gender.

Smiles that were likely to catch on were associated with increased positive mood and social bonding, as well as decreased negative mood. Thus, smile infection could represent an important indicator of alcohol-related reinforcement and a mechanism supporting drinking.

These findings are significant, says Fairbairn, because they highlight the importance of social context in understanding drinking behavior:

"Historically, neither the scientific community nor the general public has been terribly concerned about drinking that occurs in social settings. According to popular opinion, a 'social drinker' is necessarily a non-problem drinker, despite the fact that the majority of alcohol consumption for both light drinkers and problem drinkers occurs in a social context," Fairbairn explains.

"Not only that, the need to 'belong' and create social bonds with others is a fundamental human motive," she adds. "Therefore, social motives may be highly relevant to the understanding of how alcohol problems develop."

###

Co-authors on the study include Michael Sayette at the University of Pittsburgh and Odd Aalen and Arnoldo Frigessi of the University of Oslo.

This research was supported by National Institutes of Health Grant R01 AA015773 to M. A. Sayette and National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Award 0753293-006 and National Science Foundation Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide Grant 230165/F11 to C. E. Fairbairn.

For more information about this study, please contact: Catharine Fairbairn at cef24@pitt.edu or Michael Sayette at sayette@pitt.edu.

The article abstract is available online: http://cpx.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/09/22/2167702614548892.abstract

Clinical Psychological Science is APS's newest journal. For a copy of the article "Alcohol and Emotional Contagion: An Examination of the Spreading of Smiles in Male and Female Drinking Groups" and access to other Clinical Psychological Science research findings, please contact Anna Mikulak at 202-293-9300 or amikulak@psychologicalscience.org.

Anna Mikulak | Eurek Alert!

Further reports about: Psychological Science alcohol beverages drinking social bonding

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht The Great Unknown: Risk-Taking Behavior in Adolescents
19.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht A sudden drop in outdoor temperature increases the risk of respiratory infections
11.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Sarah Amalia Teichmann

20.01.2017 | Awards Funding

An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk

20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery

20.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>