Where Brain Science and Marketing Meet

Can Mountain Dew Make You Smarter than Pinot Noir?

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Soft drink or wine?When can a Mountain Dew make you smarter than a glass of a nice Pinot Noir? Well, beyond the short-term cognitive boost from the caffeine-rich soft drink, being seen holding a glass of wine can reduce your intelligence – not in real terms, but in the eyes of others. As I posted on Forbes.com the other day in Proof: Alcohol Makes You (Look) Dumb, even a stone-cold sober person holding a glass of wine suffers an apparent IQ drop.

The “Imbibing Idiot bias” is documented in a study by Scott Rick (University of Michigan) and Maurice Schweitzer (Wharton). Their work shows, among other things, that candidates viewed holding a glass of wine are judged to be less appropriate for hiring. Applicants who were pictured with a soft drink were viewed as more intelligent and more hireable. This is apparently a “priming” effect – we are conditioned to associate alcohol with cognitive impairment, and even when no such impairment is present the association still sticks.

Social Media Implications

Just about everyone on the planet has figured out that posting bleary-eyed photos showing you consuming mass quantities of adult beverages on Facebook is potentially hazardous for job seekers. This research shows that even photos that most would consider totally acceptable might be a cause for concern. Would a photo of you raising a toast with a glass of champagne influence your chances of getting hired?

My best guess: If someone is researching your social profiles in relation to a job you have applied for, a random photo of you with a mug of beer or glass of wine shouldn’t make much difference. But, the research suggests, if you use such a photo as your profile photo on Facebook, Twitter, etc., you might be doing yourself a small disservice: people constantly exposed to that image may knock a few points off your IQ.

17 Comments
  1. Aswin Vayiravan says

    Hope this article would prevent others from becoming alcoholics!

  2. denise lee yohn
    Twitter: deniseleeyohn
    says

    interesting — it brings up all sorts of questions about the inferences people make about your behaviors — through social media, our behaviors are becoming increasingly public, which means more opportunities to give — and receive — impressions — denise lee yohn

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      I agree, Denise. While some behaviors posted to Facebook are likely neutral, I’m sure others do carry some kind of association payload, either positive or negative.

      Roger

  3. Lars says

    I wonder if it’s cultural. Would the results really be the same in all countries? Where health trends are strong, drinking soft drinks make you seem like you don’t care about your body, pumping it full of unnecessary carbs. There, the occasional glass of wine may be looked at more positively than the frequent glass of Coke/Fanta etc. No?

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      I’m sure it is a cultural thing, Lars. In the US (and in particular on college campuses, where some of the research was conducted), alcohol does have an association with impairment. Wine is seen as a normal, every day meal accompaniment in much of Europe, for example, but is viewed more as a recreational beverage by many in the US.

      Roger

  4. Meredith
    Twitter: funidnggates
    says

    Great headline haha, I was prepared to talk about the implications of drinking soda. I agree with Roger that things are different in Europe, as wine is treated more like we treat grape juice. I will say that I agree about my first impression when I see a candidate’s social media profile and that they are holding alcohol. For whatever reason, I do some sort of judging. Weird. Really enjoyed this!

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      At least you recognize the bias, Meredith – many folks would say they weren’t influenced, but would indeed be affected at some non-conscious level.

      Roger

  5. IncrediBILL says

    Then people must think I’m a freaking moron with my hoisted glass of beer on all my bio pictures.

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      Well, IncrediBILL, you obviously have enough surviving brain cells to understand the post. 😉

  6. Derek J. Maak
    Twitter: DerekMaak
    says

    Hey Roger,

    It’s really amazing the type of image you can project for yourself without even knowing it. What was simply a funny moment at the time suddenly becomes the bane of your existence. Is it fair? Probably not, but it seems pretty hard to change social perceptions, especially when they have deep roots.

  7. robbie reddy says

    Hi Roger,
    I did remove Neuromarketing from my Twitter list and info. For whatever reason your tweets are STILL being automatically retweeted under my name. If you remove my info from any/all of your contact lists then hopefully it will stop. I’ve done what I can from my end. Please do what you have to from yours. Thank you very much.

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      Robbie, it isn’t possible for me to send tweets into your timeline. You need to look for any apps you have given permission to connect to your Twitter account and disable them. One such app is Tweet This, but there are others. They take a feed and post updates. But they can only do that if you grant permission. Log into Twitter, go to Settings, and then Apps. That will produce a list of apps that have permission to access your account. Good luck!

  8. Jon
    Twitter: insitedesignlab
    says

    That seems totally crazy. I can definitely understand why holding alcohol could make you seem less intelligent, but soft drinks making you seem smarter or more hirable seems strange to me. Anyway, great article and great title!

  9. Babette Jansen says

    What about the best drink in the world? Water!
    I wonder what people would say about others if they were on a picture holding a glass of water, compared to soft drink or alcohol.

    Totally agree with the cultural difference. Even within Europe there are differences .

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      I’m sure water would be similar to a soft drink, Babette. Neither leads to “impairment” like alcohol.

      Roger

      1. Babette Jansen says

        Could the effect be stronger than the effect of softdrinks? Because water is healthier, therefore people see you as more concerned about your body.

  10. Stan @ Document Shredding says

    Interesting point that Babette brings up and I would like to see the data on that theory. What drink makes you seem the most inteligent?

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