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Jul 20, 2016 @ 4:03

The Science of Beer Goggles

A couple of scientists walked into a bar and … began posing moral quandaries. When they presented bar-goers with a version of the classic “trolley problem”—would you push a man in front of a train, killing him in order to save five track workers?—they found that the drunker people got, the more likely they were to say they’d push the man. [1] Alcohol, the researchers observed, can make us more utilitarian in our reasoning.

It can also make us less charitable. In one study, researchers offered people 20 euros and gave them a chance to donate some or all of the money to Doctors Without Borders. Compared with sober subjects, those who’d downed an alcoholic peach drink were significantly less likely to donate.[2]

But as anyone who’s slurringly professed his affection for another knows, we’re not always heartless when under the influence. Indeed, one study found that alcohol alters the “bystander effect,” whereby people are more reluctant to help a person in need if others are present. When an experimenter dropped a jar of items in front of several people, those who’d been drinking were quicker to offer aid than those who were sober. The study’s authors suggested that this might be because alcohol lessens social inhibitions. [3]



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