A new study out in the American Association of Wine Economist’s “Wine Economics” journal suggests that monogamous societies are bigger drinkers than those in polygamous societies. Does this mean that being stuck with only one partner drives us to the bottle, or does drinking make us more likely to settle down?
Actually the answer is most likely neither. Both monogamy and drunkenness seem to be related to economics, or at least, that’s why both seem to have blossomed during the industrial revolution. Jo Swinnen, one of the study’s authors, told The New York Times Freakonomics blog (which seemed to have missed the actual conclusion of the study) that he noticed the correlation over, unsurprisingly, a glass of wine:
The inspiration came from a casual observation (over a glass of wine) that the two social/religious groups that do allow polygamy ((parts of) Mormonism and Islam) also do not consume alcohol. So we wondered whether this was a coincidence or not.
While many studies have compared alcohol and cultural traits, this is the study to look at its relationship with polygamy. The researchers compared the marital style and “frequency of drunkenness” of 44 well-documented pre-industrial societies (24 of which were polygamous; 20 monogamous) and found that monogamy was indeed positively correlated with drunkenness. The paper (pdf) says:
Drunk fights are a typical occurrence at some bars–but why does drinking make us more likely to fight? Kate Shaw over at Ars Technica gives us a good example of a typical confrontation:
If you’ve ever had one (or ten) too many drinks at a bar, you’re probably familiar with this scenario: a drunk guy stumbles past you, spills a beer all over you, and you get angry. You’re convinced he did it on purpose, and you start fuming.
New research from Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that this “thinking he did it on purpose” is because alcohol makes you likely to interpret someone’s actions as intentional rather than accidental. In a bar situation, this can translate to a conviction that an offending act was aimed specifically at you–great, so alcohol essentially brings out the paranoid narcissist in all of us.