10 March 2021

Self-Experiment: Effect Of Alcohol On Personality

With the exams and seminar paper behind my back, for now, I'm back writing blog posts. A few months ago, while researching personality in psychology, I found a paper on a self-study about alcohol's effect on personality. Given this, I got curious about its influence on my personality.

Disclaimer Regarding Alcohol Consumption

Before I share my research, I want to mention that I - in no way - recommend or encourage alcohol consumption. Excessive drinking is dangerous, if not even fatal. As such, I want to discourage any attempts of copying the described approach here. If, despite all, you still plan to try it yourself, talk to a doctor beforehand to help you stay safe.


Personality Models in Psychology

Most people probably heard about the Myers-Briggs personality types. However, the best is a personality model backed by a lot of research, which is the case for the five-factor model (FFM).  FFM categorizes personality into five dimensions. You can remember these by the mnemonic OCEAN, where the letters stand for openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism, respectively. It is widely used and appended with systems like the NEO-PI-R, adding six facets to each dimension.

Meaning of OCEAN[1,2]

I won't explain the whole FFM in this blog post. However, I do think explaining the domains and facets helps, understanding the results.

Openness: Often short-form for "Openness to Experience" is linked with intellect, intelligence, and creativity. It describes how curious and open people are to new experiences and also how liberal they are.

It is then split into the facets of:
imagination              
artistic interests        
emotionality             
adventurousness      
intellect
and liberalism
people higher in imagination use fantasy to spice up the ordinary life
how much interest and appreciation a person has in art
how much people are aware of and able to access their own feelings
determines how much people avoid routines and explore or try out new things
the interest people have in abstract ideas and thinking hard
determining how likely people are to challenge convention and tradition

Conscientiousness: This one is linked with the need for cleanliness, structure, and order. People who end up on the higher end feel the need to be useful and successful and they are careful and plan ahead.

Its facets are:
Self-Efficacy
Orderliness
Dutifulness
Achievement-Striving
Self-Discipline
Cautiousness
how confident people are in their ability of achievement
describes people's organization and cleanliness
determines a person's sense of duty and obligation
defines how hard a person strives for accomplishments
how self-disciplines a person is
how careful people are on their decisions

Extroversion: Most people are familiar with the idea of someone extroverted. That's the basis of this domain.

This domain has the facets:

Friendliness
Gregariousness
Assertiveness
Activity Level
Excitement-Seeking
Cheerfulness

is associated with how open people are towards others
describes how much people enjoy the company of others and of how many
assertive people take the initiative and lead
determines how much people enjoy a busy instead of a relaxed life
correlates to the interest in risks and thrills
is associated with how strong people feel positive emotions


Agreeableness: Agreeable people are nicer towards other people even strangers.

It has the facets:
Trust
Morality
Altruism
Cooperation
Modesty
Sympathy

determines how much a person believes others are fair or good
correlates with sincere and unguarded people behave towards others
is how much people enjoy helping others
is associated with the will of compromising or forfeiting on your needs for others
describes how modest people are
gives how much people can feel the pain of others

Neuroticism: Neuroticism is linked to the reaction to negative emotions. People high in neuroticism are more likely to be pessimistic or faster to be affected by stress and negative emotions.

The facets are:
Anxiety
Anger
Depression
Self-Consciousness
Immoderation
Vulnerability

defines how often and fast people become anxious or stressed
is how fast or easy people get angry
is the tendency to feel depressed
determines how much people care about what others think
is the ability to resist lust and cravings
describes the ability to withstand stress

The Approach

With FFM explained, let's see how I approached the self-experiment. There's a website by a Professor of the Pennsylvania State University which provides a personality test using FFM Neo PI-R given the International Personality Item Pool (IPIP).[2] To determine the alcohol's effect we'll take the delta before and after consumption. For this, I did the IPIP sober, using the full 300-item inventory for higher accuracy. For the second round, I prepared both cocktails and water. The purpose of the water is to combat hypohydration (water deficit) from the alcohol. Instead of measuring the exact alcoholemia (alcohol level in blood), I stopped drinking once physical and mental symptoms appeared. These include a slowdown of eyes, balance issues, increased talkativeness, and heightened mood. After repeating the IPIP, I compared the results.

The Results

Due to privacy, I'll publish the delta instead of the exact results.

Openness
+1
Conscientiousness
+0
Extraversion
+21
Agreeableness +10 Neuroticism
-8
Imagination
+12
Self-Efficacy
-6
Friendliness
+24
Trust
+18
Anxiety
-11
Artistic Interests +5 Orderliness
+0
Gregariousness
+22
Morality
+21
Anger
+0
Emotionality
+16
Dutifulness
-6
Assertiveness
+8
Altruism
+0
Depression
-16
Adventurousness +0 Achievement-Striving +13  Activity Level
+0
Cooperation
-5
Self-Consciousness -24
Intellect
-22
 Self-Discipline
+13
Excitement-Seeking +13 Modesty
+3
Immoderation
+12
Liberalism
-7
Cautiousness
-29
Cheerfulness
+16
Sympathy
+5
Vulnerability
+5

When evaluating the results, it is important to keep in mind, results from personality tests deviate to a certain degree. Thus, we should only consider significant changes. Let's consider any deltas smaller or equal to five as insignificant.

We often link behaviors such as increased extraversion, decreased cautiousness and decreased worry to alcohol consumption. The changes across the whole extraversion domain reflect this increase. The big drop in cautiousness matches too. Lastly, the decrease of worry appears in the decrement of certain facets in neuroticism as well. Interestingly imagination increased, and intellect decreased. Especially since we shouldn't confuse the latter with intelligence. Another interesting discovery is the increase of immoderation by quite a bit, making it harder to resist drinking more, which results in a vicious cycle.

Conclusion

I rarely get drunk, but it sometimes happens during parties or celebrations. I felt like I'm more lost in thought, occasionally bursting out. I also enjoy philosophy even more than without, which is weird. So, I was interested in the result. Now given it, it seems typical and according to expectation. Non-the-less it is still interesting.

[1] 2017 Personality 14: Introduction to Traits/Psychometrics/The Big 5 - Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCceO_D4AlY
[2] International Personality Item Pool Representation of the NEO PI-R http://www.personal.psu.edu/~j5j/IPIP/
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I'm a junior game developer and software developer and I created this blog to share my ideas, thoughts and whatever I'm working on or doing.