The Imbibing Idiot Bias: Consuming Alcohol Can be Hazardous to Your (Perceived) Intelligence
Personality and Social Contexts
Social and Cultural Anthropology
Alcohol consumption and cognitive impairment frequently co-occur. We propose that the relationship is so familiar that exposure to alcohol cues primes expectations of cognitive impairment. Across five studies, we find that in the absence of any evidence of reduced cognitive performance, people who hold an alcoholic beverage are perceived to be less intelligent than those who do not, a mistake we term the imbibing idiot bias. In fact, merely priming observers with alcohol cues causes them to judge targets who hold no beverage at all as less intelligent. The bias is not driven by a belief that less intelligent people are more likely to consume alcohol. We find that the bias may be costly in professional settings. Job candidates who ordered wine during an interview held over dinner were viewed as less intelligent and less hireable than candidates who ordered soda. However, prospective candidates believe that ordering wine rather than soda will help them appear more intelligent.