Alcohol makes men more responsive to smiles

Posted on October 3, 2014

According to new research in Clinical Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, for men, alcohol increases sensitivity to rewarding social behaviors like smiling, and may shed light on risk factors that contribute to problem drinking among men.

Previous research has shown that men are about 50% more likely to drink excessively than women, and much problem drinking among men occurs in social settings. Many men report that the majority of their social support and social bonding time occurs within the context of alcohol consumption. This experimental alcohol study, which included a social context, finds the clearest evidence yet of greater alcohol reinforcement for men than women.

Researchers found that alcohol significantly increased the contagiousness of smiles, but only for all-male groups – it did not have a significant effect on emotional contagion for groups that contained any women. The findings suggest that alcohol is especially likely to induce a sort of “social bravery” among men, disrupting processes that would normally prevent them from responding to another person’s smile. Smiles that were likely to catch on were associated with increased positive mood and social bonding, as well as decreased negative mood. Thus, smile infection could represent an important indicator of alcohol-related reinforcement and a mechanism supporting drinking.

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Source material from Association for Psychological Science


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