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Why Intelligent People Drink More Alcohol
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Celaeno



Joined: 09 Jul 2006
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Location: Kzoo

PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2011 2:47 am    Post subject: Why Intelligent People Drink More Alcohol Reply with quote

This is old and probably wouldn't typically deserve its own thread, but this is Sinfest where alcohol, intelligence, and evolution are (generally) highly valued, so I thought this was just the kind of thing you might enjoy.

Psychology Today wrote:
Drinking alcohol is evolutionarily novel, so the Hypothesis would predict that more intelligent people drink more alcohol than less intelligent people.

The human consumption of alcohol probably originates from frugivory (consumption of fruits). Fermentation of sugars by yeast naturally present in overripe and decaying fruits produces ethanol, known to intoxicate birds and mammals. However, the amount of ethanol alcohol in such fruits ranges from trace to 5%, roughly comparable to light beer. (And you can't really get drunk on light beer.) It is nothing compared to the amount of alcohol present in regular beer (4-6%), wine (12-15%), and distilled spirits (20-95%).

Human consumption of alcohol, however, was unintentional, accidental, and haphazard until about 10,000 years ago. The intentional fermentation of fruits and grain to yield ethanol arose only recently in human history. The production of beer, which relies on a large amount of grain, and that of wine, which similarly requires a large amount of grapes, could not have taken place before the advent of agriculture around 8,000 BC and the consequent agricultural surplus. Archeological evidence dates the production of beer and wine to Mesopotamia at about 6,000 BC. The origin of distilled spirits is far more recent, and is traced to Middle East or China at about 700 AD. The word alcohol - al kohl - is Arabic in origin, like many other words that begin with "al," like algebra, algorithm, alchemy, and Al Gore.

Human experience with concentrations of ethanol higher than 5% that is attained by decaying fruits is therefore very recent. More importantly, any unintentional, accidental, and haphazard consumption of alcohol in the ancestral environment, before the advent of agriculture about 10,000 years ago, happened as a result of eating, not drinking, whereas alcohol is almost entirely consumed today by drinking, not eating. (Deep-fried beer is a very recent exception.) The Hypothesis would therefore predict that more intelligent individuals may be more likely to prefer drinking modern alcoholic beverages (beer, wine, and distilled spirits) than less intelligent individuals, because the substance and the method of consumption are both evolutionarily novel.

...Controlling for a large number of demographic variables, such as sex, race, ethnicity, religion, marital status, number of children, education, earnings, depression, satisfaction with life, frequency of socialization with friends, number of recent sex partners, childhood social class, mother's education, and father's education, more intelligent children grow up to drink more alcohol in the UK and the US.


Full article here.
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Sam



Joined: 09 Jul 2006
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PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2011 8:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are so many sociological variables that could be presented here that you could come up with hundred of theoretical models over psychological or physiological angles. Here are a few:

- Intelligent people are more often socially networked and get into social drinking, which increases overall drinking rates.

- Intelligent people are more often socially adept and get into social drinking, which increases overall drinking rates.

- People in more networked, social families tend to grow up to be more intelligent (factors of socioeconomic advantages in enculturation and education) and create the parallel correlation linking drinking and intelligence.

- Children whose upbringing was conformative to a parental model of reinforcement through harsher means — and thus more degrees of self-doubt and stress in adulthood, see ~tiger moms~ — tend to be both more intelligent and create the correlative relationship to drinking because they DRINK THE PAIN AWAY OH GOD

- herp derp

- derpa herp

- etcetera

They are all more or less crude guesses which will take a while to straighten out and figure out why this is in terms of social patterning and the relations to intelligence. Since drinking habits are, minus a few physiological patternings, mostly trackable through social patterns.
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Usagi Miyamoto



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PostPosted: Sat May 07, 2011 12:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I realize Kanazawa's writing for Psychology Today, which is about as representative of psychology as Popular Science is of science, but I can't say I'm impressed with the way his simple hypothesis that intelligence correlates with seeking out evolutionarily novel behavior becomes a hammer in search of nails. His next three posts are all about looking for support for his own hypothesis in pretty much the exact way I'd have looked for confirmation.

So, here's what he puts up as the numbers for drinking:

Okay then. Pretty clear.

Let's look at smoking:

Ah... hmm.

How about drugs?

Errrr. Um. Maybe if you squint?

So, some positive correlation, not a slam dunk, and it's pretty easy to come up with competing hypotheses that don't appear to have been controlled for. Maybe the evolutionarily novel is more attractive to thrill seekers, or anti-authoritarians, or people who put more trust in their own analysis. Or maybe it's not correlating with the novel as much as the self-modifying, or the anti-anxiolytic. Do reckless drivers drink or smoke more? Do smarter people get more tattoos, or go the the spa more often?

Also, way to make me feel like an outlier.
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Sam



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PostPosted: Sat May 07, 2011 1:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You're not an outlier, you're just secretly dumb until you start drinking with us.
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Sam



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PostPosted: Sat May 07, 2011 1:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Maybe the evolutionarily novel is more attractive to thrill seekers, or anti-authoritarians, or people who put more trust in their own analysis.


Hey, you can come up with a boatload of psychological hypotheticals, too. "Maybe intelligent people tend to overthink social situations to the point of stress and need alcohol to relax and fit in!" or "My brain moves so fast sometimes it's just nice to shut off all the noise!"

I have heard both of these. They sound oddly compelling based on my own experiences with ever so humbly being considered part of the 'very bright' category. But, anecdotal inference aside, who knows.
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Snorri



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PostPosted: Sat May 07, 2011 1:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sam wrote:
Quote:
Maybe the evolutionarily novel is more attractive to thrill seekers, or anti-authoritarians, or people who put more trust in their own analysis.


Hey, you can come up with a boatload of psychological hypotheticals, too. "Maybe intelligent people tend to overthink social situations to the point of stress and need alcohol to relax and fit in!" or "My brain moves so fast sometimes it's just nice to shut off all the noise!"

I have heard both of these. They sound oddly compelling based on my own experiences with ever so humbly being considered part of the 'very bright' category. But, anecdotal inference aside, who knows.


MY ANECDOTES AGREE WITH YOU!
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Snorri



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PostPosted: Sat May 07, 2011 1:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

for realsies though, the idea that curiosity is the main factor just strikes me as a large leap. I don't drink because I'm curious about it because surely I'd get bored of it after the first two months right? If anything my more advanced brain would help me get tired of it more quickly than other less evolved humans.
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Samsally



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PostPosted: Sat May 07, 2011 2:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This conversation is epic fun because it forces people to make really silly assumptions.

But I just don't drink much, so what do I know?
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Dogen



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PostPosted: Sat May 07, 2011 7:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The hypothesis that intelligent people are more likely to engage in evolutionarily novel behavior is interesting. What is it about the behavior that makes it compelling? Simply because a behavior is novel on the scale of evolution doesn't make it novel for the individual. Do smarter people drive more? Do we put more things into grocery sacks? How novel does a behavior have to be in order for it to qualify as evolutionarily novel?

Now, Kanazawa seems to have solid credentials, so I'm inclined to believe he's simply not explaining his hypothesis well.
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Usagi Miyamoto



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PostPosted: Sat May 07, 2011 8:42 am    Post subject: every generalization is a lie, including this one Reply with quote

From an evolutionary standpoint I think practically everything we Westerners do is novel. Everything from trade to agriculture to animal domestication to living in cities is evolutionarily novel. Practically everything we eat is novel in substance, production, and taste. The way we clothe and shelter ourselves and earn a living is novel. The way we interact with perhaps hundreds of strangers every day is especially novel. Picking alcohol as an index for novelty is like picking a pair of socks as representative of the contents of a department store.

I don't know about the Yanomami, say, or Sentinelese, and how they might adopt or reject evolutionarily novel behaviors in correlation with intelligence, but the rest of us are swimming in a sea of the evolutionarily novel. I agree, Kanazawa certainly seems sharp, and may have some appropriately argued academic papers I haven't bothered to look up to his name, but the pop psych treatment of his blog entries don't seem to be showing his argument in its best possible light. (These are not the hypotheses you're looking for. Move along.)

On a (very) tangential note, while thinking about smart people and social drinking, I remembered that I've long been curious if Mensa gatherings are as depressing as I fear. I joined once, while a freshman in college, but never made it to a meeting. Since then I've apparently saved about $1800 in membership dues, adjusted for inflation, which makes me feel pretty smart, even without alcohol.

YOU DON'T DRINK WELL HOW SMART CAN YOU BE also WHY AREN'T YOU RICH variant for Objectivists YOU DON'T SMOKE WHY DO I EVEN WASTE MY TIME YOU PULING GOVERNMENT-CODDLED SOCIALIST MORON alternative title The Most Interesting Man In The World (Once You've Had At Least Three Dos Equis)
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Guest



Joined: 15 Aug 2006
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PostPosted: Sat May 07, 2011 10:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If I didn't know better (I'm not the heavy drinker type), I'd say this study is total pish. Evolutionary novel would arguably be to abstain from drinking, because from an evolutionary standpoint you'd last longer.

I notice he also didn't form a study on the smoking of marijuana in his smoking section, which increases brain cells, apparently (or brain cell formation). I also wonder, what does this imply about Einstein? Was he secretly normal?
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Michael



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PostPosted: Sat May 07, 2011 11:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Maybe intelligent people are more likely to earn money, get sloshed and get away with it?
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Sam



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PostPosted: Sat May 07, 2011 12:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I remembered that I've long been curious if Mensa gatherings are as depressing as I fear.


They're fucking weird. It was exactly what I expected; a group that self-selects based on desiring to preen their feathers over the subject of their own intelligence.
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Mr Gary



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PostPosted: Sat May 07, 2011 12:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah I'm a frickin' genius.
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Sam



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PostPosted: Sat May 07, 2011 12:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

tonight I will express my genius in the form of a Vieux Carré or three.
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