Why We Drink Even Though We Know We Shouldn’t

Love going out drinking? New research has come to light that could go some way to explaining why having one more drink sounds like such a good idea – despite the crippling hangovers the day after drinking and despite the fact that you probably declared that you’d ‘never drink again’. However, most of us will go out drinking again a week or less than a week later and will forget all the negative things that happened last time we went out. This new research may go some way in explaining why we continue to routinely forget everything bad that happens to us whilst drinking and why we only focus on the good.

Unsurprisingly, we are far more likely to remember the fun aspects of our night out, such as having a laugh with our friends and feeling less inhibited, and we tend to forget the bad parts of the night, such as falling over or getting into a fight with friends.

This research was conducted by the University of Washington, whereby they asked 500 college students to fill out an online questionnaire that measured their drinking habits from the previous year. The students were given a list of positive events that happen whilst drinking, and a list of negative events that happen whilst drinking. They then had to mark how many times these events had happened to them, how likely it was that any of these things would happen again, and how good or bad it would be if any of these things happened again.

Participant’s perception of the bad side to drinking was found to be influenced by the number of bad experiences that they had had whilst drinking. People who had experienced only one or two negative events as a result of drinking did not consider those experiences to be particularly bad or negative – they felt that these events were just something that happened, whereas participants in the study who had experienced a large number of negative events whilst drinking did seem to be deterred by it. This sort of ‘it’s bad but it won’t happen again’ mentality leads people to say things like ‘I’ll never drink again’ – and that statement usually gets forgotten by the next morning.

The researchers found that the participants generally tended to think the good side to drinking, and the fun things that happened to them whilst drinking were far more likely to happen next time they go drinking than anything negative – a phenomenon that was termed ‘rose-colored beer goggles’. These findings go some way to explaining why people continue to drink, despite having bad or negative things happening to them as they feel like even if something bad happens, it’s not likely to happen again.

So what happens to you when you go out drinking? Can you remember everything the day after? Do you ever remember any of the bad things that happen whilst drinking or do you just think of it as being a fun experience? Learning to take the bad experiences with the good experiences when it comes to drinking means that you’ll begin to drink within your limits, meaning that the likelihood of negative things happening to you whilst drinking decreases. Blotting the bad experiences out and just focusing on the good means that you’ll never learn to drink to any sort of limits – and that’s not a good thing, especially for college students.