Most of us already know through our own experiences that alcohol can have drastically different personality effects from one person to the next, turning some people into social butterflies and others into aggressive jerks. Now, there’s science to prove that “drunk types” really do exist, according to a study published in the journal Addiction Research and Theory.
Researchers from the University of Missouri-Columbia recruited 187 undergraduates who reported having a ‘drinking buddy’ (someone who knows what they are like when both sober and drunk) to separately fill out identical surveys assessing drinking frequency, alcohol-related consequences, and sober and drunk personality traits. They then created subgroups, or ‘types of drunks’ based on the five-factor method—the broad domains used by psychologists to determine personality—which include neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.
Using a statistical technique known as factor analysis, the researchers identified four unique types of “drunk personalities,” which were each named after popular literary characters: the Mary Poppins, the Ernest Hemingway, the Nutty Professor and the Mr. Hyde.
Check out the defining characteristics below to see where your friends—and you for that matter—fit in:
1. The Hemingways
Named for the writer who famously boasted that he could “drink hells any amount of whiskey without getting drunk,” Hemingways do not exhibit any major changes in personality when they transition from sober to drunk. Participants in this category displayed far more stability on measures of conscientiousness (e.g. being prepared, organized, prompt) and intellect (e.g. understanding abstract ideas, being imaginative) than the rest of the sample. Interestingly, this was by far the largest group, encompassing about 40 percent of all participants. The researchers conclude that this ‘drunk type’ represents the majority of drinkers who tend not to undergo drastic character changes or experience alcohol-related consequences.
2. The Mary Poppins
Like the beloved, cheerful nanny, the “Mary Poppins” group was composed of a small number of drinkers (14 percent of the sample) who are particularly agreeable when sober (this would be the friendliest, most cooperative friend you have). Once intoxicated, this group saw less of a decrease in conscientiousness and intellect and more of an increase in extraversion than others. In short, “the Mary Poppins group of drinkers essentially captures the sweet, responsible drinkers who experience fewer alcohol-related problems compared to those most affected,” the study explains.
3. The Mr. Hydes
Those who took after the evil alter-ego of Dr. Jekyll experienced the most negative drunk transformation. Members of this group reported decreases in conscientiousness and intellect, and smaller increases in extraversion when drunk compared to the other samples. “Members of this group, much like the dark-sided Mr. Hyde, reported a tendency of being particularly less responsible, less intellectual, and more hostile when under the influence of alcohol than they are when they are sober, as well as relative to members of the other groups,” the study concluded. Not to mention, this was the only group that was statistically more likely to experience harmful consequences from their drinking (i.e. blacking out, or being arrested because of drunken behavior).
4. The Nutty Professors
This group—named after the Eddy Murphy-played character who is chemically transformed into the more confident, extraverted “Buddy Love”—was particularly introverted when sober, but showed a large increase in extraversion when drunk, as well as a decrease in conscientiousness. Members of this group had the most overall discrepancy between their sober and drunk traits, but still in the healthy decision-making range (as in, no blacking out and no drunk texting their exes). This is your shy friend who becomes the life of the party when she gets a few drinks in her.
The study authors hope to use these categories to tailor future alcoholism interventions to particular personality types, though further research is needed to determine whether these classifications are generalizable beyond the college population. In the meantime, you can use them to take bets on how many beers it will take before your Nutty Professor friend breaks out the embarrassing dance moves.