Have you ever witnessed an altercation started by an accidental shoe scuffing or drink-spilling? Science explains why alcohol consumption sometimes leads to really pointless fights.
Recent findings prove that a drunken individual is more likely to perceive other people’s actions as being deliberate and intentional, rather than accidental. In a sober state, when given time, a person is more likely to think things through and consider all the reasons why something could have happened.
Interestingly enough, according to the brain’s natural intentionality bias, those who are forced to make snap judgments about the behavior of others more frequently infer intent compared to those who have more time to process the information and consider other possibilities.
It can be assumed that when under the influence, people make that default judgment where all actions are intentional, and the voice of reason is less likely to come along and interfere with that conclusion. You could say that the drinking judge’s verdict is more likely to be guilty.
In an experiment titled “There Is No Such Thing as an Accident, Especially When People are Drunk” published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, researchers report on a study of 92 male participants who are made to go three hours without food, then they are given a shot of wither juice or juice with more than a shot of pure alcohol. An alcohol coating on the rim of the glasses masked the placebos.
The men thought they were participating in a taste test. After 30 minutes of unrelated activities, the participants were asked to determine whether a series of deliberate, accidental or vague stated actions were deliberate or accidental.
Nearly all the participants, no matter what condition, judged all the unambiguous statements correctly. However, when the actions were ambiguous and could have been performed either intentionally or unintentionally, the “drunk” participants were much more likely to perceive the actions as deliberate than the sober participants were.
The experiment shows that despite whether the subject is aware of their drunken state, they are still less likely to judge behavior as being unintentional. This study certainly explains the high frequency of altercations and arguments in bars, at sporting events and on reality TV shows. It also gives additional insight to why other bad decisions are made when someone is under the influence of alcohol by showing how their thinking becomes distorted.