It is horrifyingly easy to manipulate a person's moral decisions without them knowing it -- that's why this is one of our favorite subjects. We've previously talked about how everything from caffeine to bad lighting can turn you into a jerk. There are all kinds of unpredictable exterior stimuli that are basically like cheat codes for turning perfectly good people into dickheads, and they only get weirder ...
6Just Looking at Alcohol Makes You More Racist
It's no secret that alcohol amplifies obnoxiousness. It tears down the walls of inhibition, revealing that we're all secretly loud, unapologetic dicks just beneath the surface. Studies on this subject would be hilarious, but not terribly surprising. Here's what is surprising, though: Drinkers are just as awful when thinking about alcohol. More specifically, they become a lot more racist.
One study involved exposing participants to a series of magazine ads to prime them -- half of the participants saw ads for alcoholic beverages, and the other half saw ads for soda and water. Afterward, to examine their racist tendencies, researchers gave them multiple tests, showing a split-second image of a white face or a black face and then a picture of either a gun or a tool, at which point the participants were asked to identify what they had just seen. Well, it turns out that the people who had seen the alcohol ads frequently mistook the tool for a gun during quick identification. But here's where it gets weird: They only mistook it for a gun when it was a black face that preceded the picture. Those who had seen the ads for non-alcoholic beverages were not just better at identifying the difference between hammers and automatic weapons; they were also significantly less racist when they did mess up. What the hell?
"Everybody on the fucking ground! This is a robbery!"
To explain this, we have to understand how the subconscious works. Your brain is constantly registering and associating things without your input because you'd go insane if it tried to run everything by your conscious mind. Picture your subconscious as a secretary or assistant, making decisions that are so small or trivial that they aren't worth the boss's time. It's very easy to forget how extremely powerful the secretary actually is, just by virtue of all of these little decisions it makes day to day. And no matter how many "racism is wrong" messages you get in your conscious mind, lots of us still subconsciously make the connection between, say, black men and violence.
So even if you don't think you're racist, your subconscious secretary is still signing your name with a rubber stamp to some pretty racist ideas, simply because your neural pathways have decided that generalizing and stereotyping is a much faster way of doing business.
"Love your suit. Where'd you steal it?"
Of course, if you actually drink alcohol, your conscious inhibitions fall and suddenly you're screaming to a police officer about how Jews are secretly behind all of the world's wars. But since your brain is familiar with that process of inhibition, just being reminded of alcohol starts the process, if just a little tiny bit. You naturally become more relaxed, subconsciously remembering the no-holds-barred attitude you had the last time you were under the influence and screamed racial slurs through the entire game of beer pong.