Energy drinks give you wings, only if you know you're drinking it
Washington D.C. [USA], May 12 : When it comes to mixing energy drinks and booze, belief can increase your buzz, according to a recent study.
When told an energy drink is mixed in their vodka cocktails, young men feel more intoxicated, daring, and sexually self-confident, the research suggested. The effects of intoxication were stronger in those who believe that energy drinks boost the effect of liquor.
Previous studies suggested that mixing energy drinks with alcohol could mask the effects of liquor, leading consumers to believe they weren't drunk but, in a trial of 154 young men at the Paris-based INSEAD Sorbonne University Behavioral Lab, the opposite was found to be true.
The study participants were told they would drink a cocktail of an energy drink, vodka and fruit juice. Although all drinks had the same ingredients, they had different labels: Red Bull & vodka, a vodka cocktail or a fruit juice cocktail. The effect of the label alone on participants' self-assessment of intoxication was remarkable.
Researchers found that participants who believed they were drinking an energy drink and alcohol cocktail were more likely to believe themselves quite drunk and uninhibited. This was especially true among those who had a strong belief that mixing energy drinks with liquor would boost the effects of liquor.
Labelling the same cocktail as vodka & Red Bull increased perceived intoxication by 51%, compared to labelling it as vodka cocktail or a fruit juice cocktail. It also increased the young men's intentions to approach and "chat up" women, and their confidence that they would welcome it.
Finally, it led also to more risk-taking in a gambling game. All these effects were stronger for the participants who most strongly believed that energy drinks boost the effects of alcohol and that being intoxicated reduces inhibitions and increases risk-taking.
On the positive side, the authors found that the Red Bull & vodka label increased intentions to wait before getting behind the wheel of a car by 14 minutes because of the perceived intoxication.
"Red Bull has long used the slogan 'Red Bull gives you wings,' but our study shows that this type of advertising can make people think it has intoxicating qualities when it doesn't," said lead author Yann Cornil. "Essentially, when alcohol is mixed with an energy drink and people are aware of it, they feel like they're more intoxicated simply because the marketing says they should feel that way."
According to the researchers, the findings highlight a need for policymakers and consumer protection groups to re-examine how energy drinks are advertised and labelled.
The study appears in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.