People Feel Drunker If You Tell Them They’re Drinking a Vodka Red Bull

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It takes a certain type of person — some have called this person a “bro,” or even a “basic bro” — to order a vodka Red Bull. Here, from The Atlantic, is a fun fact to know and to tell your vodka Red Bull–ordering pals next time they order one: The drunken antics associated with the energy drink cocktail may be at least partially due to the drinker’s belief that vodka Red Bull will inspire drunken antics. A placebo effect for the modern bro.

Science writer Veronica Greenwood reports on a forthcoming study from the Journal of Consumer Psychology, in which researchers served 154 men (all young, all heterosexual) the same drink — a cocktail of vodka, juice, and Red Bull. Some were told they were getting a “vodka-Red Bull cocktail,” others were told their drink was a “vodka cocktail,” and a third group was told they were drinking a “fruit juice cocktail.” Same drink, three different names.

Greenwood takes us through the rest of the methodology:

After they downed their drinks, the subjects were given three tasks. First, they played a gambling game on a computer, in which they won money each time they inflated a balloon a little farther, but each inflation came with a chance the balloon would pop and they would lose everything. Second, they were shown photographs of 15 women and asked whether they’d approach each in a bar and whether they thought they would get her number (the subjects were all heterosexual). Finally, they filled out surveys describing how drunk they had felt during the experiment and how long they would wait before getting behind the wheel to drive, among other points.

Those who were told they were drinking a vodka Red Bull were more, shall we say, intense when it came to two of the three tasks, as compared to the behavior of the other two groups. They were more aggressive at the balloon thing, continuing to inflate it after the other groups stopped. “They were also more confident when it came to approaching women, expressing greater certainty of getting their numbers,” Greenwood writes. But they also said they would wait longer on average to drive than did the other two groups, suggesting that they believed themselves to be drunker as compared to those who were not told they were drinking vodka Red Bull.

“These effects were stronger for people who believe that energy drinks boost alcohol intoxication,” the researchers write, “and who believe that intoxication increases impulsiveness, reduces sexual inhibition, and weakens reflexes.” Perhaps the power of vodka Red Bull isn’t limited to its ingredients, as study co-author Pierre Chandon said to Greenwood, but is also explained by “what you believe it does to you.” If Chandon is taking requests, I would suggest he and his colleagues investigate Fireball next.

Study Claims to Find a Vodka-Red Bull Placebo Effect