Posts Tagged ‘Alcohol’

“It’s an acquired taste”: Beer and the Mere-Exposure Effect

April 17th, 2017 8 comments

I remember when I had my first beer…

It was vile.

Whether you’re sneaking one from the fridge in high school, playing pong during your first college weekend, or (rarely the case) enjoying your inaugural brew on the night of your 21st birthday, there is nothing too remarkable about this adult soda striking our taste buds for the first time. In fact, there is a pretty generic response: it simply does not taste good. As we drink more beer we begin to appreciate this canned goodness. This is not the alcohol talking. That first Natty light, a beverage I remember initially resembling a nauseating blend of pinto beans and carbonated water, took every muscle in our bodies to choke down. Now it has become nothing less than a fine pilsner: the most Natural of Light, some would say. Why?

It is pretty common knowledge that most of us do not like our first taste of beer!

Where and when does the transformation occur? How do we go from having a negative opinion about something to having a beer every night at dinner? The classic saying is that beer is an acquired taste, but the real work behind this acquisition is the mere-exposure effect. This psychological phenomenon explains why we learn to like things (in this case, malt beverages) as we encounter them more. According to the findings of psychological studies in the sixties, the more we are exposed to something, the more “likable” it becomes (Zajonc 1968). Read more…

Heavy Drinking After College

November 17th, 2014 2 comments

When one thinks of heavy drinking, one usually jumps straight to college students, due to popular culture references and stereotypes that paint college as a breeding ground for excessive alcohol consumption. Despite their stereotypical nature, these assumptions do hold some weight. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reports that approximately 80% of college students engage in alcohol consumption. This statistic can be seen playing out on the weekends here at Colby College, as well as at many other colleges around the country, when students put down their textbooks and start to drink. Many of them drink a lot, with approximately 50% of students who drink alcohol also engaging in binge drinking (NIAAA). Binge drinking is defined as four alcoholic drinks in two hours for women, and five alcoholic drinks in two hours for men (NIAAA). Heavy drinking, then, is when a person engages in binge drinking more than five times in a month. At Colby, it is not uncommon to hear of girls drinking over ten drinks in a night; boys, up to twenty. The effects of such risky behavior are often cited as being responsible for bad grades, poor social relationships and general unhappiness (NIAAA). Despite the repercussions of excessive drinking, many students laugh it off as “just a college thing,” and expect that they will go back to a normal, generally sober, life after graduation. But what if they don’t stop? Will the alcohol have a similar effect later in life?

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Categories: Aging, Decision Making Tags:

A drink a day keeps cognitive decline at bay…IF you’re one of these lucky people

December 8th, 2013 4 comments

With the holidays quickly approaching, many of us will be reuniting with family members at our grandparents’ houses. Someone will inadvertently spike the punch and then you’ll have grandparents, aunts, and uncles a little on the tipsy side. We’ve all heard that a glass of red wine each day is beneficial for your health but how true is this for the older folk in our family? Is it only red wine that has these effects? Several studies have suggested that it can actually be good for the elderly to have a few drinks per week. Alcohol is protective to the cardiovascular system due to its anti-inflammatory effects. This can in turn have positive effects on the health of the brain, which improves cognition (how quickly we think, how well we remember, etc.). Can alcohol be used as a sort of protective substance?

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Categories: Aging, Memory Tags: ,

Shaken, Not Stirred: Alcohol Consumption in Older Adults

November 29th, 2013 6 comments


At my grandfather’s 89th birthday last year, everyone was having a blast, especially since my grandfather made jokes about his aging mind and body constantly. However, the funniest moment of all came when my older sister Liz made him a martini. As a result of poor judgment, she decided to make him a watered-down drink. This did not go over well. When my grandfather took the first sip, he said to my sister, “Elizabeth, I don’t know what this is, but it is not a martini.” The whole family burst out laughing, and my grandfather chastised my sister for trying to trick him. After the situation was ironed out with a real martini or two, the weekend continued without any more hiccups. My grandfather remains very particular about his food and beverages to this day, further proven by the fact that he requested a thirteen layer cake for his 90th birthday this past summer. Fortunately, this year all his drinks were made properly by my uncle, who used to work as a bar tender.

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Categories: Aging Tags: ,

Choose your level of impairment: you can either a) drive drunk, or b) drive while talking on the phone.

April 20th, 2013 3 comments


The milestone that stands out among teenagers’ exciting and memorable lives is getting one’s license. The excitement that comes with the accomplishment of a driver’s license dominates the high school years sending teens into a euphoric state of independence. Over time, and as licensed teens grow older, parents are likely to sit down with their kids to stress the importance of never getting behind the wheel of a car while under the influence of alcohol because of the dangers of drunk driving. Increasingly over the past few years parents have also recognized the importance of giving the same advice in regards to driving while talking on the phone. There is growing awareness of the need to outlaw cell phone use in the car, especially given the new texting and driving phenomenon (, however drunk driving and cell phone driving are still not seen as comparable dangers.

Nearly everyone will talk on a cell phone while driving at some point during his or her life. Some people need to make urgent business calls, some people call a friend to ask for


directions, and some people just get bored on their drive home from work. David Strayer, a psychology professor at the University of Utah, discusses in his research on distracted driving that approximately 8% of drivers on the road at any given time throughout the day are using their cell phone (Glassbrenner, 2005). A majority of drivers believe that phone calls don’t have a distracting effect on them especially if they are using a hands-free device. However, Strayer and his colleagues have found that the attention demanding nature of cell phone conversations make the damaging effects of distracted driving, hands-free device or not, present in nearly all drivers (e.g., Patten et al. 2004; Redelemeier & Tibshirani, 1997; Strayer & Johnston, 2001), save some appropriately named “supertaskers” (Watson & Strayer, 2010) who showed no impairment while talking and driving.

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Categories: Attention Tags: ,

Binge Drinking Before an Exam, Maybe Not as Bad as You Thought.

March 26th, 2013 11 comments

binge drinking stats

It’s no secret that in the pursuit of a higher education away from the confines of home students often explore a wilder side of themselves. The weekdays may be all about academics, but on the weekend campuses breakout with parties full of stressed students trying to let loose, if only for one night. This celebration of the weekend usually includes some alcoholic drinking. Four out of every five college students drink alcohol. Strict scheduling of academics and fun can lead students to overindulge, taking in too much of a good thing in a short period of time. In terms of drinking this pattern of behavior is called binge drinking. About half of all college students who drink also show patterns of binge drinking. 54% of binge drinking college students reported blacking out and forgetting what they had done some point in the past year, compared to only 25% for students who did not binge drink. Binge drinking as defined by the National Advisory Council of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) is attaining a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 g% or more in about two hours. 0.08 g% is equivalent to about 5 or more drinks for most adults (4 or more for females). A BAC of 0.08 is considered intoxicated and is associated with impairment of speech, balance, reaction time, judgment, and memory. Though, because this impairment is often slight and just beginning to develop, it may be easy to believe you are less impaired than you are. Drinking 5 or more drinks in only 2 hours clearly shows its effects the night of their intake, but what about the next day? Worst, what if a student has academic responsibilities the next day? Even worst, what if the student has an exam the next day!

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Categories: Education, Memory Tags: ,