What Lurks Inside?

Anyone who’s had a few drinks knows the strangely enjoyable effect alcohol has on their personality and senses.  Suddenly our jokes are funnier; we are far more clever than before; and that girl at the end of the bar – she wasn’t that attractive ten minutes ago.  Seasoned drinkers know themselves well and are able to both welcome and carefully manage alcohol’s nudges of misbehavior.

Your inner personality is revealed when the din of chatter grows and your vision gets softer at the edges.  You speak your mind and act impulsively, free from the shackles of social graces and good sense alike.  Each of our inner personalities – the hidden self we censor and contain – is different.  And deep inside every one of us, according to a new book by two psychologists, is “a liar, a cheat, and a sinner.”

Atlantic online contributor Maria Popova brought the book – Out of Character: Surprising Truths About the Liar, Cheat, Sinner (and Saint) Lurking in All of Us, written by David DeSteno and Piercarlo Valdesolo – to my attention last week.  In it, the DeSteno and Valdesolo propose analogizing personalities as colors.  “Ultimately, what determines what colors we see are the frequencies of light waves entering our eyes, so it’s along a continuum. It’s kind of the same with character. Things blend. We assume that if someone is good, that we’ve characterized them as good, that’s a discrete category, they can’t be bad. And when they are, our categories shatter. That’s because we have this illusory, arbitrary idea of what vice and virtue mean.”

I think this analogy can be taken a step further and applied to drinking.  If each personality trait is a color, then each of our personalities is a unique blend, creating a unique color.  But when we drink – and even perhaps what we drink – new colors are temporarily added to our personality.  Might a beer or two make our personality a few shades brighter, encouraging a normal introvert to be more expressive and outgoing?  Or maybe a gin and tonic would add a touch of red, resulting in a flirtatious touch and lascivious conversation. Remember, the old adage “gin makes you sin” had to come from somewhere.

Regardless of our personalities, booze changes all of us in different ways, for good or bad.  Each personality trait mixes with each drink differently: some cannot drink tequila without becoming rowdy; others cannot drink vodka without becoming bawdy.  Bourbon, red wine, and beer.  All different colors all mixing differently, each affecting our virtue and vice – our morality – in some manner.  Perhaps points to consider the next time you order a drink, depending on who’s lurking inside and who you’d most like to lure out: the sinner or the saint.


Read Maria Popova’s Atlantic article ‘Out of Character’: The Good and Evil in All of Us.  The article also appears on her blog, Brain Pickings.

Published in: on May 18, 2011 at 12:11 pm  Comments (7)  
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  1. Great article….very educational and the Ugly Truth….who are you????

    • All I can say for certain is that he isn’t a fat green toad!

  2. very interesting… brings to mind the song “Tequila makes her clothes fall off”

  3. Not only do my dart skills get more accurate but my billiard balls roll straighter! Must be magic!

    • Both true! Great comment RP.

  4. Yo THF!

    Quite an intriguing post! It’s difficult to say what happens to me when I drink. I like to think that I become friendlier and funnier, but then again, what do I know. Guess you’ll have to ask whoever is out drinking with me for the truth.


  5. This also brings to mind the recent episode of How I Met Your Mother in which the characters recount the moods that particular alcoholic beverages provoke in them. Red wine leads to sad clarity, martinis stir up lesbian lust, and bourbon brings on beatboxing. Hmmm…Have I mentioned lately that I’m glad you’re not a bourbon drinker? 🙂

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