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See Inside November / December 2010

Beware 'Imbibing Idiot Bias'

People judge alcohol drinkers as less intelligent

We all know alcohol impairs a person’s reasoning abilities. But in a study presented at the annual meeting of the Academy of Management in August, researchers reported that booze also diminishes how smart others perceive us to be. In a series of six experiments, the investigators consistently found that participants rated people in pictures, videos and face-to-face encounters as less intelligent when they held or drank alcoholic beverages than when they drank nonalcoholic beverages or nothing at all. The “imbibing idiot bias,” as the researchers call it, persisted even when participants drank fake alcoholic beverages that did not interfere with their cognitive functioning. Most strikingly, in mock interviews volunteers judged job candidates as less intelligent when they ordered an alcoholic drink—even when the person interviewing them had done so first.

This article was originally published with the title "Beware Your Beverage."

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