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Shaming Reckless Drinkers Leads to Reckless Drinking

We've seen a lot of them: public service announcements meant to make us feel bad about drinking ourselves stupid. Remember the one that showed a drunk dude fighting, urinating in public, and hooking up with random women with the message: would you do this sober? Or the gross Belgian PSA that featured people throwing up in unfortunate situations thanks to alcohol? Well new research suggests the message that we should feel ashamed about binge drinking doesn't get through to the viewer. Maybe we're too drunk to listen?

Not exactly. A study from Northwestern University and Indiana University found that these ads trigger existing feelings of guilt and shame and make excessive drinkers defensive. Drinkers tune out the PSA and in fact the shame-inducing message might lead to more binge drinking.

If someone tries to make you feel guilty about a bad habit — be it fast food, smoking, casual sex, or drinking — does it make you defensive or do you consider changing your behavior?

Image Source: Getty
Join The Conversation
postmodernsleaze postmodernsleaze 7 years
I don't get defensive when someone tries to point out something about me that bothers them. I'm a very, very, very diplomatic person and enjoy keeping peace. I'm always open to communicating troubles in order to keep the best relationships possible with the people around me. I'm not a pushover though. If there's something I honestly don't think is a problem, I'll stand up for myself. But I'm always open to honest communication. I like compromise, maturity, and happiness. So I'm willing to work on what might bother other people if I can see their point of view. I expect others around me to also be open to my own suggestions. I'm all about mutual respect, so this has never caused a problem for me. I have excellent relationships with the people closest to me. I think a lot of defensiveness stems from how someone tackles an issue. If someone comes to you in a non-threatening way and discusses something with you maturely, you're probably going to have a much better reaction. If someone comes to you angrily, rudely, or making fun of you, it's more likely that you're gonna put up your defenses.
Autumns_Elegy Autumns_Elegy 7 years
When someone picks on a bad habit of mine I get uber defensive, though it depends on the bad habit. I can see why binge drinkers would feel bad though, no one likes having their bad habits picked on.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 7 years
I agree with the study on pschological terms but in all fairness to the PSA's I thought they were aimed at adolecents before they even get to that point not the person who has been a reckless drinker. I think the problem in most cases when a friend or loved one chooses to take on that issue with the substance user is they make the mistake of lumping them into the general consensus. If you're gonna go there you'd better know that person well and individualize your statement because if you're too general they wiggle right out from under your point.
bryseana bryseana 7 years
I agree. Making someone feel stupid about their addiction doesn't help the situation. There are more sensitive and supportive ways of helping. Guilt and embarrassment can just lead to more destructive behavior.
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