Kids can be quite impressionable. At a young age when we can control what they see and hear, that trait can be cute, but past their teens and into young adulthood, they more or less make decisions on their own. In some ways, that can be troublesome. For example, according to a recent study, young adults who are in the company of other heavy drinkers are more likely to take a swig as well.

For the first time, researcher Helle Larsen from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research found a scientific basis for this kind of behavior. Around 600 students were observed for the study. Participants were paired up to perform various tasks including studying advertisements.

Afterward, they could take a break together in a laboratory that was made to look just like an ordinary café. What the participants didn’t know, however, was that the real test happened during their break and that their partners were actually in on the experiment. Said partners were given instructions to drink one to three glasses of either wine, beer, or soft drinks.

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Results? Half of the subjects chose to order alcohol when their partners did. When the actors drank more, the participants drank two to three times more as well. Interestingly, pairs who ordered both alcoholic beverages shared a certain synchronicity. Compared to those who ordered soft drinks, the participants who had alcohol were more likely to drink when their partner drank, matching the pace.

Knowing one’s limits is very important. "It could be important to make people aware of the fact that they imitate the drinking behaviour of others in social situations,” Larsen explains. “Increasing the awareness of processes underlying alcohol consumption might help to prevent the development of undesirable drinking patterns."


(Photo by mstephens7 via Flickr Creative Commons)

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