Empty glass, empty promise

Photo by Flickr user DeeJayTee23. Click for sourceThere’s a neat study in the August edition of the Journal of Abnormal Psychology on how alcohol can make us feel fully committed to goals we know we have no chance of achieving.

Alcohol breeds empty goal commitments

J Abnorm Psychol. 2009 Aug;118(3):623-33.

Sevincer AT, Oettingen G.

According to alcohol-myopia theory (C. M. Steele & R. A. Josephs, 1990), alcohol leads individuals to disproportionally focus on the most salient aspects of a situation and to ignore peripheral information. The authors hypothesized that alcohol leads individuals to strongly commit to their goals without considering information about the probability of goal attainment. In Study 1, participants named their most important interpersonal goal, indicated their expectations of successfully attaining it, and then consumed either alcohol or a placebo. In contrast to participants who consumed a placebo, intoxicated participants felt strongly committed to their goals despite low expectations of attaining them. In Study 2, goal-directed actions were measured over time. Once sober again, intoxicated participants with low expectations did not follow up on their strong commitments. Apparently, when prospects are bleak, alcohol produces empty goal commitments, as commitments are not based on individuals’ expectations of attaining their goals and do not foster goal striving over time.

Link to PubMed entry for study.

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