You don’t need a scientist to tell you that people do some dumb things when they’ve had too much to drink.

But just holding a beer can make you look less intelligent, according to a joint study by the University of Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania.

Authors Scott Rick and Maurice Schweitzer found that people who are holding an alcoholic beverage are perceived as less intelligent then people who aren’t.

The professional fallout is particularly bad: Job applicants who ordered wine during dinner were seen as less intelligent and less capable than candidates who ordered soda.

The mechanism at work?

A priming effect that Rick and Schweitzer call the “the imbibing idiot bias.” In short, we so closely associate drinking and idiocy that when we see someone holding a drink, we expect them to act like an idiot.

“The association between alcohol and cognitive impairment has been illustrated for millennia in literature, cinema, bars, and homes,” Rick and Schweitzer write, citing the stack of studies linking drinking and stupidity. “In fact, the association between alcohol and cognitive impairment is one of the most enduring and ubiquitous associations for any food or beverage over time and across cultures.”

Rick and Schweitzer came to their conclusions after five experiments. In one, 109 participants were shown photos of actors holding a bottle of beer or a glass of water — with the beer-holding actors rated as “significantly less intelligent” but “no less likeable” than the others.

In another experiment, participants watched a video of a persuasive speech made by a male holding either a Coke can or a bottle of beer. The beer holder was rated as “significantly less persuasive” than the Coke holder.

Yet another experiment took the form of recruiting interviews done over dinner between participants (in the role of job candidate) and a paid panel of mid-level managers. The participants were offered a glass of red wine or a Coke. And while the participants reported that they thought ordering the wine would make them look smarter, the managers said that the participants appeared less intelligent when they ordered the Merlot.

So if you want to avoid looking like an imbibing idiot, save the drinking for happy hour.

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