The Grapevine

Drinking In Bars: Loud Music May Cause You To Drink More Alcohol Than If You Were In A Quiet Setting

Bars and drinking go together like peanut butter and jelly, and now there may be a scientific reason for why. According to a study published earlier this month in the journal Food Quality and Preferences, sound can influence how much alcohol you end up drinking, and music may lead you to drink more than you would in a quieter environment.

Perceptions of sweetness in beer were significantly higher when participants listened to music compared to silence or when they listened to a news segment, Smithsonian reported. Sweeter beer was also perceived as being weaker, regardless of actual alcohol content. As a result, individuals may be inclined to drink more beer if they view it to not be as strong. Based off these results, the team concluded that music alone could change the flavor of alcohol, which may subsequently change our perception of its strength, leading us to drink more.

beer We may drink more at bars than we would in the comfort of our own homes. Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

“One possible explanation is that people are generally poor at estimating alcohol content of beers by means of taste cues,” said Carvalho, as reported by The Smithsonian. According to the study, humans in general are poor at judging the alcohol content in a drink. As a result, we may instead use other cues, such as the high impact bitter flavor of beer as an indication of alcohol content, even if this is not accurate.

In addition, we may also be inclined to drink more of a sweeter tasting beer because of our natural inclination for sweet foods.

“There can be a potential for overconsumption when drinks are too sweet or the music is quite fast because the human brain is wired to seek pleasure, explained Lorenzo Stafford, a researcher at the University of Portsmouth in the U.K. who conducted a study on the effects of noise on alcohol perception in 2011, Smithsonian reported.

All together, the results could suggest why individuals may be inclined to drink more at a loud night club or bar than they would at a quieter social gathering. Carvalho believes his findings could have positive implications, and suggests one day we may use sound to help people drink less alcohol without losing the quality of the experience.

Source: Carvalho FR, Wang QJ, Van Ee R, Spence C. The influence of soundscapes on the perception and evaluation of beers. Food Quality and Preference. 2016

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