Political Barflies: Time, members, please!
By Megan Willis, Australian Catholic University
October 13, 2016 07:03:53
Handle with care: a gin and tonic served as ‘holy water’ at the Brisbane Festival. (612 ABC Brisbane: Jessica Hinchliffe)
No gin joint in country NSW while meeting hipster drink market
G and T: Gin and Tasmania a match made in distiller's heaven
A search for the word “gin” in the research paper that prompted this news story produced a grand total of zero hits.It’s therefore rather concerning that this paper has spawned a huge number of popular articles all reporting this non-existent link, such as this one that has been shared on Facebook nearly 300,000 times.Depending on what you read, if you’re partial to a gin and tonic you are either a psychopath, or slightly more generously, a possible psychopath. The short story is, it hasn’t.I determined this reasonably efficiently. I was looking at Facebook one evening last week when my attention was captured by the headline “Gin lovers are all massive psychopaths, according to experts” — a somewhat disconcerting thing to read as I sipped the gin and tonic I had in my hand at the time.As someone whose propensity to empathise with others has seen me spend entire evenings crying over the plight of movie characters, psychopathy has never made its way onto my list of self-diagnoses.I instantly felt compelled to learn more about how a penchant for gin had become the new diagnostic tool to detect a psychopath.
Australian distillers put their own twist on global gin craze
Quite simply, they don’t.The study provided no evidence that an individual’s preference for specific bitter drinks like coffee, beer or tonic water (with or without gin), has any relationship with psychopathy. Even if it had, this would fall a long way short of being able to brand anyone who enjoys a G and T as a psychopath.The only thing this study found was a weak positive relationship between psychopathy and a general penchant for bitter things. Other stories have cast the net a bit wider, branding coffee and beer drinkers as potential psychopaths too — which, if you think about it, would make society a pretty scary place.Booze newsThese news stories are misreported accounts of research from the University of Innsbruck. Responses were then averaged to create a score for psychopathy and the other traits.The researchers measured bitter taste preferences in two ways. (ABC: Lisa Millar)
The researchers measured psychopathy using a brief personality measure that assesses three socially undesirable personality traits: psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism — collectively known as the “dark triad”.Participants indicated their agreement with statements such as “I tend to be callous or insensitive” and “I tend to lack remorse”. First, participants were provided with a list of 10 bitter foods and drinks, including coffee, tonic water, beer, radishes and celery, and rated them on a scale from 1 (dislike strongly) to 6 (like strongly). Photo:
Jekyll or Hyde? Across two studies, researchers investigated the relationship between bitter taste preferences and various antisocial personality traits, including psychopathy.While many tend to think of it as a disorder that afflicts only the most calculating of criminals, psychopathy is also conceptualised as a personality trait that falls along a continuum, with those at the extreme end characterised by superficial charm, callousness, and a lack of empathy. (ABC News)
How on earth do these findings translate to people who drink gin, coffee or beer being probable psychopaths? That is, those with higher psychopathy scores did not display stronger overall liking for the specific bitter foods and drinks, including tonic water, coffee, and beer.However, there was a weak correlation between psychopathy scores and participants’ scores on their general preference for bitter tastes. No, Tasmanian distiller Bill Lark, sipping a small glass of his gin. These scores were then averaged to create an overall measure of bitter taste preferences for each person. The researchers also asked participants to rate their liking for bitter foods and drinks in general (as opposed to the specific examples) on the same scale.The bitter truthThe results reported no significant relationship between psychopathy scores and participants’ preference scores for the specific bitter foods and drinks. So you might say that people at the psychopathic end of the spectrum are slightly more likely to express a preference for eating or drinking bitter things in general. Photo:
Distillery owner Max Chater explains the joys of gin on the London Gin Trail. In my view, this link is negligible compared with other, more well established predictors of psychopathy, such as a person’s genes or sex.If you want to know if you’re talking to a psychopath, the truth is that most will reveal themselves soon enough, especially if you know the tell tale signs — which don’t include whether or not they’re brandishing an aperitif.Megan Willis is a senior lecturer in the School of Psychology at Australian Catholic University.Originally published in The Conversation.