Historically, we don’t make great decisions after tossing back a few glasses of wine. Try searching “drunk Amazon shopping” on Google, or even scrolling through your text messages the morning after a particularly regretful rager, and you’ll see what I mean.
But recent research published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences had some encouraging findings for women: Psychologists from the University of Liverpool found that a woman can identify a potentially bad mate even after one or two drinks. The study, poetically named “A drunk heart speaks a sober mind: Alcohol does not influence the selection of short-term partners with dark triad traits,” came out last November.
Researchers focused on personality traits known as “the dark triad”—psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and narcissism. Psychopathy is characterized by, among other things, emotional coldness and manipulativeness; those high in Machiavellianism tend to be cynical and willing to exploit others; and narcissists think extremely well of themselves. For most people, these traits don’t exactly make for the ideal partner: When’s the last time you saw someone actually boast about being a psychopath on Tinder?
In order to test how alcohol influence impacts women’s ability to detect the danger associated with dark triad traits, researchers conducted an experiment with 96 women ages 18 to 26. Participants were randomly chosen to drink water, lemonade, and vodka (my fave!), or a fake alcoholic drink of lemonade sprayed with a vodka scent, which they had to consume within eight minutes. Afterward, they were shown photographs of men whose faces had been digitally manipulated—control faces were superimposed with photos of faces of men who had scored high and low for dark triad traits on a personality assessment. Researchers asked the women to choose which one appeared most dangerous in a pair of faces
Consistent with past research, the results found that women were less likely to select the photos of men who had shown high-levels of dark triad traits—which is, frankly, really good news. “The dark triad,” the study’s authors write, “has been associated with sexual coercion, harassment, and rape-enabling attitudes, which could be potentially dangerous for women seeking for short-term partners.”
“Having an enhanced sensitivity for potentially dangerous faces could be important for evolutionary fitness,” they concluded. Lead research Gayle Brewer explained further to Broadly: “From an evolutionary perspective, we may be able to pick up that someone is more threatening, less likely to be trusted, or that our psychological or physical safety is at risk,” adding that she’d like to conduct further tests on women who have had bad relationship experiences. “It would be really interesting to see whether women who’ve been in threatening relationships are more sensitive to these faces.”
Of course, just because science says we’re equipped to detect a bad mate doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll avoid dating that narcissist. We just can’t blame it on the booze anymore.