London: People often embarrass themselves and behave badly at office parties. Now, scientists have come up with an explanation -- drinking in unfamiliar environments make people lose control of their inhibitions.
Researchers at the school of psychology at the University of Birmingham found that drinking in environments not normally associated with alcohol consumption can leave drinkers less able to control their behaviour.
They discovered that the brain learns to compensate for the inhibition lowering effects of alcohol when in a familiar setting, such as a pub or at home with friends.
But, if they drink in an unfamiliar environment such as the workplace, where they are usually sober and focused, drinkers do not benefit from tolerance and lose control of their inhibitions, the Daily Telegraph reported.
Dr Suzanne Higgs, who led the research, said: "We know alcohol has a disinhibitory effect.
"We found that when people drank in a particular context, such as in the same room, they developed a tolerance over time and the disinhibitory effect of alcohol went away."
"As you don`t normally drink alcohol at work, you haven`t had the chance to build up this tolerance so people tend to be less inhibited."
For their study, published in the journal of Alcohol and Alcoholism, the researchers recruited 24 volunteers and asked them to perform a series of computer based tasks in order to test their inhibition levels.
They were asked to consume either an alcoholic drink or a similar sweet drink before performing the tasks in different rooms decorated differently.
It was found that, over time, volunteers drinking alcohol developed a tolerance to its disinhibitory effect.
When they were later given alcohol in the room they had associated with the non-alcoholic drink, their inhibitions were reduced, the researchers found.
Dr Higgs said though the research was based on unfamiliar physical environments, the reduced inhibition could also occur when drinking with less familiar people such as work colleagues.
She said: "Being at a party will also make people more excited and will probably increase that effect further. Also once you start getting a bit disinhibited the most likely outcome is to drink more and could lead to binge drinking.
"It probably explains why people do things at office parties that they regret the next day."