You Can’t Blame The Booze

drunkAlienAs excuses for bad behavior go, “I’d been drinking” is on par with “the devil made me do it.” In other words, we assume the bad decision was the result of impaired judgment. So much so that it’s used to explain everything from a fight to a poor choice of sexual partner. A new study shows this isn’t so.

As reported in the Association of Psychological Sciences article, a group at the University of Missouri took a look at brain scans during decision-making with subjects both sober and intoxicated. They monitored a particular signal in the brain that indicates an awareness of making a mistake. Surprisingly, the group found that intoxicated or not, we are aware of our mistakes.

But we still make more mistakes right? That may explain the results. Not that we are unaware of misjudgments, but that being intoxicated simply allows us not to care. This explanation takes into consideration the lack of inhibitions we feel when boozed up.

The ramifications may play out in court. Currently, judges will take a person’s mental state, including whether they were drunk or not, when deciding sentencing. Being high, or being intoxicated doesn’t excuse crime – you are still responsible for your deeds – but it may influence the sentencing. With this new picture, perhaps judges will take a second look at whether being drunk should be a mitigating factor.

Another consequence is pinning down responsibility with drunk driving. If you are aware of the mistake, but simply don’t care, that shows a kind of willful indifference and makes the offense even more heinous.

Further research will show if the effect applies to other types of substance abuse.

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