Students drunk on friendship

By Brandon Smith

Many hungover mornings have been spent lamenting a lost phone or reminiscing about how funny it was when it took that one guy 30 minutes to put his shoes on the night before. But there are serious implications associated with drinking to keep in mind before heading out to a party.

First, the good news: research shows there are positive aspects to drinking, much to the delight of college students.

Michael Sayette, a professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, published a paper on social effects of alcohol in the August issue of the journal Psychological Science that served some sobering insights on what it means to drink.

“There is no question that many college students are struggling with alcohol,” Sayette said. “So my approach has always been to see what alcohol does to people.”

Sayette’s study aimed to look past the negative effects often associated with drinking by trying to understand why people enjoy consuming alcohol.

“If we only focus on the damaging

effects of alcohol, then we would certainly learn those effects,” he said. “But we wouldn’t know why people are doing it. This study has overcome the shortcomings of previous studies to better address this question, and we found support that alcohol did enhance bonding.”

This new information confirms alcohol is what most call a “social lubricant,” meaning it can significantly

affect the brain in ways that give people more confidence, especially in situations where someone may be less willing to engage with others.

Art Markman, a professor of psychology and marketing at the University of Texas at Austin who is familiar with the study, agrees that alcohol can be a good means for making friends.

“In moderate doses, alcohol does seem to function as a kind of social lubricant,” Markman said. “It makes people get along better and it allows people who might be initially reluctant to get into conversations to get involved. It tends to make people evaluate the content of conversations

more positively.”

However, Markman explained that the size of the dose has an effect on that social barrier.

“The difficulty is the sort of stereotypical college drinking experience,” he said. “A keg and a bunch of drinking games, or Everclear and Kool-Aid are not conducive to

low-dose drinking.”

The fun can quickly turn into something rather unpleasant and unpredictable when people start consuming too much alcohol, Markman said.

Kim Fromme, a professor of clinical psychology at the U of T at Austin, pointed out the many consequences of having one too many sips of

jungle juice.

“Behavioral risks are the primary problems associated with underage drinkers,” Fromme said, adding that almost 80 percent of underage college students drink alcohol. “Regretted sex, aggression, all of these things are more likely to occur when an individual is intoxicated.”

It is important to understand that while drinking at social events can act as a catalyst between you and a potential friend, moderation is always the answer, Markman said.

“[Alcohol] is not something to be treated with fear, and I think the message we often give to freshmen is that it is something you should be scared to death of,” he said. “There are a lot of temptations associated with drinking, and learning to navigate those risks successfully will certainly help in the rest of your life.”