Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The psychology of drink-holding

I've spent a lot of time on this blog pointing fingers at the media for their inept, sensationalized portrayal of science, and at the general public for their appallingly low understanding of how science works.  In the interest of honesty, however, I have to admit that sometimes the fault lies with the scientists themselves.

Take the recently-released study by Dr. Glenn Wilson, of King's College, London, which ties your personality to how you hold your drink in a bar.

Wilson, who apparently has done some reasonably good research in the psychology of personality, has now written a paper classifying people into eight basic personality types, based on observing them holding drinks (and then following it up with a short debriefing to determine their personality).  After observing people in a London pub, he came up with the following basic personality types: The Flirt, The Gossip, The Ice Queen, The Browbeater, Jack-the-Lad, The Funlover, The Wallflower, and The Playboy.  (For information on how each of them holds a drink, see a more complete description of the types here.)

My response: even the freakin' astrologers divide all of humanity up into twelve types (thirteen, if you count the new zodiac sign of Ophiucus).  You're saying there's only eight basic types of human?

Of course, this wouldn't be the first time that some psychological researcher or another has dramatically oversimplified human personality.  But there are two further problems with this "study;" it was written after observing only 500 people, without any sort of thought given to controls, even simple things like age, cultural background, and socioeconomic status.  And...

... Wilson was sponsored to do it by Walkabout Bars.

Yup.  We now have corporate sponsorship for writing science.  Next thing you know, Walt Disney is going to be demanding that we include a mention of "magic" in elementary science textbooks.

And despite all this, Wilson's "study" made the "science section" of a variety of news outlets, because it was Done By A Scientist.  Never mind that the whole "study" is methodologically flawed, and honestly, just kind of ridiculous.  And, because it was in the science section, people will probably believe it.  Folks will now be looking around them at bars, and thinking, "Wow, that woman is drinking wine with the glass held in front of her.  She is an Ice Queen, and will be Ready With A Castrating Put-Down.  I'd better not talk to her."  Which is still one step worse than astrology, because in order to find out what someone's sign is, at least you actually have to speak to them.

Of course, despite all this, I had to look at the "archetypes" and figure out what I am.  So I looked through the descriptions.  There was some mention in the media of people who do odd stuff -- one article I looked at specifically mentioned Hilary Clinton, who is right-handed but sometimes picks up her glass with her left hand, and this means she's "insincere."  And I thought: I do that all the time.  I mostly use my right hand, but I always put my drink on the left.  I just thought it was because I liked to be able to hold my beer and a slice of pizza at the same time, but no, apparently it means I can't be trusted.

As far as pub-drinking style, I clearly fall into the "Jack-the-Lad" category.  I often lean way back, but keep my hand on my beer bottle, unless I'm on a bar stool with no back, because then I'd fall over backwards, which would clearly classify me as "Jack-the-Dork."  Let's see the description of "Jack-the-Lad:"
The Jack the Lad: This "peacock" is conscious of his image and will drink a bottled beer, or cider. Inclined to be confident and arrogant, he can be territorial in his gestures, spreading himself over as much space as possible, for example, pushing the glass well away from himself and leaning back in his chair. If he's drinking with his mates, he would be unlikely to welcome approaches from outside the group, unless sycophantic and ego-enhancing.
Oh, yeah, that's me, all right.  If you're going to come up to a peacock like myself, you damn well better be sycophantic and ego-enhancing.  Hell yeah.  So you can just take your Wallflower self and go over there and talk to the Playboy over there.  Maybe he'll be more receptive to having you in his Territory.

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