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Science proves that “Dutch courage” is a real thing

Woo Sang-taek, designer and seller of a new measuring cup, drinks alcohol as he demonstrates the use of the cup during a photo opportunity at his office in Seoul June 7, 2011. Somaek, the mix of Korea's national alcohol soju -- a distilled vodka-like liquor -- with beer, is a popular tipple for many Koreans who find straight soju too strong, but aren't that keen on beer by itself. As a result, one lively debate when Koreans gather to drink is the best ratio of the concoction. For some, pouring soju and beer into glasses is a chance to brag about their mixology skills and prime somaek combinations. But now, a new glass measuring cup takes the mystery out of making the concoction, allowing partiers to mix according to their favourite taste every time. The cup provides guides for all possible permutations, from the 1:9 soju to beer mix described as "gentle and smooth" up to "Blackout" -- a 5:5 mix. Picture taken on June 7, 2011. To match Reuters Life! KOREA-DRINKING/ REUTERS/Truth Leem (SOUTH KOREA - Tags: SOCIETY) - RTR2NFHN
Reuters/Truth Leem
Doing it for science.
By Stefan Constantinescu
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

“Dutch courage,” liquid confidence—the value of alcohol as a social lubricant is widely acknowledged, and now science has confirmed its existence. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Oslo dug into the phenomenon of “social bravery” induced by alcohol, and found that the effect is more pronounced in men than women, at least when it comes to smiling in social settings.

They took 720 social-drinking millennials, split them into groups of three, and then randomly gave each person one of three drinks.

Option 1: Vodka Cranberry

Option 2: Virgin Vodka Cranberry

Option 3: Virgin Vodka Cranberry, but labeled as having alcohol (with a few drops of vodka for believability)

The participants in the study were recorded, with their smiles in particular being noted and then modeled using “sophisticated analyses” to determine their genuineness and contagiousness. The men who drank alcohol were caught flashing their pearly whites more often than those who weren’t. And if a person in the group was drinking heavily, smirk levels increased even further. Whether men were paired with women surprisingly had no effect on the rate of smiling.

What were the researchers actually trying to discover? They wanted to find out how important of a role alcohol played in terms of forming relationships, since many men reported that going out with colleagues after work is a bonding experience.

Things start to get a little bit hazy when people who seek that reinforcement start going out more often than they should, build a tolerance, and thus need to drink even more before they start smiling.

That’s probably why, the researchers concluded, “social motives may be highly relevant to the understanding of how alcohol problems develop.”

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