The Military College of South Carolina
give online buttongive online button apply now buttonapply now button

Alcohol Expectancies

Are you familiar with these Five Stages of Drunkenness?

  1. Stage 1: You Become Brilliant!
    At this stage of drunkenness, you become the expert on every subject in the known universe and it is your goal to pass on your extensive knowledge to anyone who will listen (and even to those who don’t really want to listen!).
  2. Stage 2: You Become a Hot Model
    At this stage of drunkenness, you realize two things: (1) that you are the best-looking person in the world and (2) that everyone else thinks you’re the best-looking person in the world. You can flirt with anyone around you and they WILL enjoy it because you are the most attractive person in the world. But don’t forget—because you’re still the smartest person in the world, you can continue talk to anyone about any subject!

  3. Stage 3: You Become the Wealthiest Person in the World!
    At this stage of drunkenness, you become the wealthiest person in the world. Drinks? Of course! And they’re “on the house.” You can AND WILL buy drinks for anyone and everyone—strangers, friends, enemies—doesn’t matter because you’re rich. You also enjoy making bets at this stage. Why? Because you’re still the smartest person in the world and you can’t lose—but even if you did lose it wouldn’t matter because you’re still the richest person in the world!
  4. Stage 4: You Become Bullet Proof
    At this stage, you become invincible—you’re ready to pick a fight with anyone. Your specialty is picking fights with several people at once, especially, obviously larger people. And, naturally, you will proudly get into a fight with others because you’re smarter than they are, more attractive than they are (and will shamelessly flirt with their date!) and richer than they are.
  5. Stage 5: You Become Invisible!
    During the final stage of drunkenness, you become invisible—you can do anything you want—anything at all—because no one can see or hear you. Dancing on the table? Yes! Stripping in front of others? Of course! Streaking across the parking lot? Naturally! You can even walk down the street singing at the top of your lungs—and because you’re still the smartest person in the world (you think) you know all the words to the song you’re singing!


Of course, we’re kidding. There are no real “Five Stages of Drunkenness” as described above. However, the joke does illustrate something called positive alcohol expectancies—some people will increase the amount of alcohol they drink because they believe (incorrectly) that doing so will provide more experiences that are positive and offer advantages to the social encounter that not drinking alcohol will provide. (see Marlatt & Rohsenow, 1980). Read on for more information about positive alcohol expectancies!

Alcohol expectancies: Do you really, “Get what you expect”?

Imagine this scenario:

  • You’re invited to a bar and are allowed to consume several alcoholic beverages;
  • You are given several mixed alcoholic drinks that you think contain one standard measure of alcohol (e.g., one shot) but contain only a few drops of alcohol (for smell and sensation) instead.
  • What do you think would happen? How would you behave?

The Balanced Placebo Design Study:

  • Well, according to research (see Marlott, & Rosenhal, 1980 for a review) you would probably report having one or more of the following experiences:
    • A “buzz” even though you had no alcohol;
    • Feel less socially inhibited even though you had no alcohol;
    • Feel less anxious (overall) even though you had no alcohol;
    • And, if you’re a man you would feel more sexually aroused even though you had no alcohol; this experience would likely be absent if you’re a woman;
  • What you would experience is called positive alcohol expectancies and has been defined this way, “…positive alcohol expectancies are beliefs people have about what they will experience during and after drinking alcohol (e.g., ‘I’ll feel more social and outgoing,’ ‘I’ll feel more sexy and friendly’)” (Dimeff, Baer, Kivlahan, & Marlatt, 1999).


  • Whereas drinking alcohol is often a part of social functions with family and friends, drinking alcohol provides “no special benefits” or “advantages” over choosing not to drink alcohol as part of social functions with family and friends.
Back to Top