Drunk people respect authority

Really interesting research by Laura Van Berkel shows that people who are drunk, tired, or suffering other types of cognitive impairment such as distraction or stress are more likely to be vulnerable to “those in charge” and when asked, affirm that “control or dominance over people or resources” is  a “guiding principle in your life.”  Equality is something a calm, leisurely person is more likely to support. We revert to hierarchy under cognitive stress.

According to a 2009 review, conservatives tend to support hierarchy andauthority more than liberals do. Van Berkel, working with Chris Crandall and other colleagues, found that, in terms of how the hundred and seven subjects interviewed outside the bar thought about hierarchy, drunk people gave more conservative responses while sober people gave more liberal ones. Over the next few years, she and her team ran five more experiments, exploring the relationship between mental effort and support for hierarchy. In each case, they found that cognitive impairments, such as being stressed or distracted, made people more likely to favor hierarchy. Even encouraging “low-effort thought”—by forcing respondents to think quickly, say—made people more respectful of those in charge.

There may be some sub-category of people for whom being drunk arouses their own need to dominate. We’ve all seen belligerent, brawling drunks domineering drunks and aggressive drunks. And people who are stressed at work are also more likely to do what the boss says. Equality, the article notes, may be a state of mind.

Further Reading

Also mentioned in the New Yorker article:
 Hierarchy in the Forest: The Evolution of Egalitarian Behavior by Christopher Boehm. A 1999 book in which Boehm, an anthropologist theorizes egalitarianism is in effect a hierarchy in which the weak combine forces to dominate the strong. Domination does not disappear, it just gets distributed.

4 thoughts on “Drunk people respect authority

  1. Integrative functioning is reduced any time we are intoxicated, overwhelmed, tired, hungry, stressed etc.

    Integrative functioning is our brain in it’s most mature state – all functions working together. We can see nuances, have mixed feelings and thoughts and can empathize. When they aren’t functioning together we act more immature – which can be anything from belligerence to meekness depending on our personality. Just like any group of 5 year olds.

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