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How Alcohol Can Make You Look Stupid: The Imbibing Idiot Bias

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Whether you are at a work function or holiday party with family members, it is important to realize the effect that alcohol can have on your perceived reputation. At one moment, your co-workers may view you as a super-smart, hard-working person. After a few shots of tequila, however, this perception can quickly change. A University of Michigan research study reiterated the idea that drinking alcohol in front of other co-workers can make co-workers perceive one as less intelligent.

The Impact of Choosing Alcohol Consumption  

This recent University of Michigan study was published in 2013. The researchers were concerned with assessing the impact that merely choosing alcohol over other beverages has on one’s perceived social appearance. The researchers worked under the assumption that behavioral changes related to consumption of alcohol would most certainly change the way in which co-workers perceived an individual. The researchers were most interested in studying whether merely the choice of alcohol could cause co-workers to lose respect for others and cause them to judge individuals as possessing less intelligence.

The Imbibing Idiot Bias

The researchers set out to show that an “imbibing idiot bias” actually exists. They conducted a total of five separate mini studies to prove that this bias exists. In the last research study, the researchers discovered a very interesting conclusion. The researchers set out to place the research subjects in an interview setting. The researchers set out to determine whether ordering wine at the dinner would influence the hiring decision of the manager. At this stage of the research study, many of the research subjects believed that ordering a glass of wine made them appear to be more intelligent before the interviewer. The reality was that the individuals who ordered a coca cola received higher ratings than individuals who ordered wine at the dinner event. The hiring manager believed that those who consumed soda or non-alcoholic beverages possessed greater control and intelligence than those who ordered alcohol.

Losing Control of Your Speech

One of the typical effects of consumption of alcohol is that an individual can lose control of his or her speech. Once a person consumes alcohol, he or she may be more likely to reveal trade secrets and other sensitive information related to the company. Many upper management individuals have the fear that an individual may be manipulated to share proprietary information at dinner events that involve the consumption of alcohol.

Drinking alcohol can also cause you to make inappropriate comments that you would not otherwise make in a sober condition. You don’t want to criticize another employee while under the influence of alcohol. You also don’t want to be the one remembered as making harassing remarks aimed at other employees all night long.

Losing control of the things that you say is just one of ways in which alcohol can make you look stupid. When an individual loses control of his or her behavior, alcohol can have a real impact on the status of one’s reputation in a company.

Losing Control of One’s Actions 

If one is drinking at a work event or holiday party, he or she should be extremely careful in regards to his or her actions. It may be easy to consume multiple drinks if upper management is going crazy at an event. However, lower-level employees should not take this as a cue to join in on the alcohol consumption.

After you have had a few shots or glasses of wine, you may also be at risk of appearing less intelligent in other ways. In the worst cases, an individual may lose total control of his or her bodily functions. You don’t want to be the one who’s sick in the corner at the holiday party.


Controlling your consumption of alcohol in front of co-workers is vital in order to maintain your reputation. Even ordering just one glass of wine at a dinner can make you appear to be less intelligent than your counterparts who order soda.



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