"I’m never drinking again." I’ve muttered these four words before’almost always after a self-inflicted hangover has me regretting that last tequila shot from the night before. But why did my declaration to never drink again not stick?
It’s not due to a lack of willpower, but rather the ability of our brain to overlook the negative consequences of a night while overrating the amount of fun we had, explains psychological researcher Diane Logan in an article on msnbc.com.
New research from Logan and a team of scientists at the University of Washington suggests that these "rose-coloured beer goggles" we wear are a result of "positive memory bias," where we remember the fun we had while guzzling beer as hilarious as watching Zach Galifianakis in The Hangover. At the same time, our brain convinces itself our actions, which we’re not so proud of (bad karaoke, dancing on table tops), were out of character and won’t happen again. This is known as "cognitive dissonance," whereby our brain has such a strong concept of who we are and how we act, that we must either change our view of ourself or change our view of the activity we engaged in.
For the study, researchers surveyed 500 college students on their drinking habits, assessing how often they experienced negative repercussions versus positive effects.
"What goes on in some peoples’ minds is: ‘I’ve learned my lesson; things will be better next time,’" says Logan, lead author of the study. "Suddenly, they think: ‘Urinating on myself? It’s not really that bad’and it’s already happened a couple of times.’"
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the study’s participants were college students, as that’s definitely when my alcohol consumption was at its peak. While I’m sure I’ll still overindulge occasionally’and inevitably suffer the consequences’I think I’ve grown out of binge drinking. Now, I’m a grown-up with responsibilities, and while my brain still thinks those beer-fueled nights were some of the best ever, the impending hangover is a strong deterrent.
Why do you think you continue to drink until a hangover is inevitable?