College students go on drinking until they attain a certain level of drunkenness, after which they adjust the pace of their drinking by sipping as opposite to gulping in the beginning, a study has found.
Young people decide whether they’ve had enough to drink the same way the cruise control on a car “decides” whether to accelerate or hit the brakes, the researchers explained in the study that aims to analyse drinking behaviour the way engineers might analyse a mechanical system.
“The way the students made decisions about drinking actually resembled the single most common feedback controller that’s used in engineering,” said Kevin Passino, engineer at the Ohio State University.
“It’s called a proportional-derivative controller, and it measures how far a system has moved from a particular set point and adjusts accordingly. It’s the same as cruise control on a car,” Passino added.
The study revealed that after attaining a level of drunkenness youngsters may also switch to a non-alcoholic beverage at different times throughout the night to maintain the initial level of drunkenness.
Analysing the high-risk drinking behaviour among college students via engineering methods might reveal relationships among complex factors that would otherwise remain hidden, said John Clapp, professor at Ohio State.
“We’re looking for the best points to intervene strategically, so that we can aid a person in their decision-making and potentially derail problematic behaviors,” Clapp said.
A team of social workers and engineers at the university used mathematical models to help explain the factors that drive alcohol consumption.
They performed portable alcohol breath tests, and over several studies, they accumulated data of blood alcohol content (BAC) -- a percentage measure of alcohol in the blood -- on nearly 1,500 students.
At the start of the evening, the researchers quizzed the students about how drunk they intended to get, and then they tested the students’ BAC several times over the following hours.
The data showed that students who reported wanting to feel “buzzed” adjusted their consumption to maintain a BAC around 0.05, while those who said they planned to get “very drunk” averaged around 0.1.
The results appear in the journal IEEE Transactions on Cybernetics.