January 17, 2010

in vino veritas

Filed under:, , — cwage @ 7:58 am

I took a peek at Marginal Revolution this morning, and decided to start reading it again.

Why, you ask? Well, I had this dream that I was assigned to go take pictures of "Her Lady's Pond at Leeds", which was an ornate baptismal pond (uh, in Leeds, I guess?) that had been decimated by some sort of Woodstock-magnitude festival pollution. I fell into the tar-like quagmire but managed to save my camera, and as I was wading back to the shore, I see Tyler Cowen and some girl, who help me up out of the muck. I have no idea what Tyler Cowen looks like, but in the dream he was some tall lanky British dude. I am not sure what this all means, except that maybe I should lay off the hot wings right before bed.

Anyways, I saw that in this post he linked to this paper, which I find intensely interesting:

It is argued that drug consumption, most commonly alcohol drinking, can be a technology to give up some control over one’s actions and words. It can be employed by trustworthy players to reveal their type. Similarly alcohol can function as a “social lubricant” and faciliate type revelation in conversations. It is shown that both separating and pooling equilibria can exist; as opposed to the classic results in the literature, a pooling equilibrium is still informative. Drugs which allow a gradual loss of control by appropriate doses and for which moderate consumption is not addictive are particularly suitable because the consumption can be easily observed and reciprocated and is unlikely to occur out of the social context. There is a trade-off between the efficiency gains due to the signaling effect and the loss of productivity associated with intoxication. Long run evolutionary equilibria of the type distribution are considered. If coordination on an exclusive technology is efficient, social norms or laws can raise efficiency by legalizing only one drug.

This paper continues the fine tradition of economics/sociology in rephrasing in mathematical or painstakingly lexical terms what we already kinda know as common sense. Some of the comments are interesting, as well:

I don't think the authors are saying signally and sorting are the only reasons people drink, just one. and their framing does nicely explain the hostility teetotalers often encounter in social drinking situations.

Indeed.. And as a single guy, I'd like to extend that line of thought to the world of dating. This may sound insane to those of you that know me, and how I spend the dominant portion of my social life: I don't actually like drinking alcohol that much. I mean, don't get me wrong. I have a great time on many an occasion out drinking with friends, and I'm a fan of the connoisseurship aspect (as catandgirl pointed out: connoisseurship can make anything interesting). But as a general factor in my life and lifestyle, I don't particularly care for it. It makes me feel like crap. It exacerbates health problems I already have (alcohol is both dehydrating and an inflammatory agent, making it not the best thing for chronic sinusitis). It takes a not-insignificant chunk out of my workout routine. Yoga while hungover is not fun. Drinking coffee and sitting in front of a computer is. (okay, well, maybe not fun, but less painful)

And yet, time after time, I encounter social situations where it's awkward or ungainly to not imbibe. This goes double for the world of dating. Rarely do I not cringe inside as I ask a girl to go "grab a drink" sometime, doing the internal calculus on my schedule and realizing what portion of it involves alcohol (or food) in some social capacity. But the above paper does at least make me feel a little better about the whole situation. It's not that I'm so socially awkward or self-conscious that I can't "have a good time" without alcohol -- it really is a socially-ingrained mechanism for establishing mutual trust. Opting not to drink at such an occasion isn't just "not fun" -- it's painful because you're rejecting, one way or another, a well-established pattern of social negotiation.

At least there's potential as always for better living through chemistry: research into various benzodiazepines that can accomplish a lot of the same effects of alcohol without all the negative stuff.

So, wanna go grab a diazepam? I know this great little place.

  • http://realm3.com/ Brian Dailey

    Whoa, small world. I actually sent that article in (I have been reading Tyler Cowen for years). I found it equally fascinating.