The Brighter Side of Liquid Courage

The perceived positive effects of alcohol keep college students drinking

(RxWiki News) Alcohol has been called “liquid courage.” This perceived benefit may outweigh all the real negative side effects for regular drinkers. Researchers are now tapping into the reason why.

University of Washington psychologists found that participants were more likely to continue drinking heavily because of perceived positive side effects. Even though, in reality, heavy drinkers would eventually suffer more negative side effects.

"Don't drink too much alcohol; there are real risks."

University of Washington psychologists found that participants were more likely to continue drinking heavily because of perceived positive side effects, even though, in reality, they would eventually suffer more negative side effects.

The researchers found that participants rated what they considered to be the upsides of alcohol – like improved sexual encounters, more energy and better conversational skills – more highly. Investigators called this phenomenon “rose-colored beer goggles.”

Lead author, Diane Logan, a University of Washington clinical psychology graduate student, said that students thought the good effects of drinking were going to get better and happen more frequently. That’s why, she says, college students tend to drink more.

Researchers also found that participants who suffered from the negative consequences of drinking, such as blackouts, fights and hangovers, were more likely to disregard them and say they would never happen again.

It wasn’t until participants experienced really bad consequences that they would change their drinking behaviors, according to Logan.

These findings can help alcohol intervention programs be more effective for college students.

The study included almost 500 college students who completed surveys measuring their drinking habits, along with the negative and positive effects.

The research is published in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

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Review Date: 
July 6, 2011