Can Mountain Dew Make You Smarter than Pinot Noir?

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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 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.

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