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Group Behavior and Peer Pressure in a Bar Setting - a Study

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We have all seen the scene in movies: friends gathered at the bar having a good old time drinking with each other. Yet the scenes that play out in movies are completely different from the true groups that gather down at the local pub. You can see groups of people who would never be compatible unless there was alcohol involved, or you can see the lonely guy at the bar just hoping he can something with a heartbeat to talk to him. While not every person who sits down at the bar will be greeted with “The usual tonight?” most people’s drinks can be assumed based on their personalities. However, whether the person is alone or with friends can also decide what they decide to order. Peer pressure, just like in the teenage years, is an influencing factor for how a socially awkward person, a hyperactive person, a party girl, a business man, a soft spoken person, the elderly, and the geeks all behave alone and with his/her friends.

Imagine the socially awkward fellow; the one you were worried would snap and bring a shotgun to school. Yes, that one; let’s imagine him. You see him sitting alone in the corner of the bar, and while it would be a nice thing to go and catch up with him, you would rather keep a distance. And for all you know, he’s happy being there, all quiet and alone. He orders a beer for himself and sips it aimlessly while watching the game that is showing on the televisions, pretending to have interest. When you try to think back to a time where you saw him here before, you realize he is always alone, just like how he was back in high school. Crazy how few things never change, right? Lucky for him, the lack of friends means a lack of peer pressure, so he won’t be going out and getting wasted like the rest of the men his age.

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Now imagine this: a man or a woman sitting at the bar orders a mixed drink for themselves. Mixed drinks tend to combine what would normally be one drink for one personality. I’m not saying the mixed drinkers are schizophrenic, not at all; however, they act less than their age and are normally the hyperactive group who has to remember to take their meds in the morning. The mixed drinker would be one to have a conversation with, but only if you would not mind not being able to get one word in. Now you think back to when you saw him/her before, because you are so familiar with the local bar scene. This person, as you recall, was not always alone like Mr. Shotgun over there in the corner, oh no, this person is a rather social person, and is frequently surrounded by their friends, having a good old time. Yet, you recall their drink of choice being vodka, not a mixed beverage. You also recall them laughing the loudest and being the head of the joke, probably because his/her “friends” are always giving the refills. This peer pressure the Hyperactive deals with actually encourages their alcohol consumption just so the friends can get a good laugh from the “funny drunk.”

While scanning the bar, you notice another girl sitting on one of the stools, alone. Must be the night for people to have “me” time. She seems normal, ordering a martini for herself, and again, you recall the other times you have seen her in town. This girl you remember as the floozy who was willing to throw herself at anything with a pulse. While she remains calm tonight, the last memory of her is filled with shots of tequila and black out binges. “She seems like such a nice girl!” you used to think, until she became labeled as the “turn into a stripper” drunk. After that, you could never see her the same way again. Yet, tonight, she seems almost…normal; chit-chatting with the bartender and sipping her martini quietly as the rest of the crowd goes by. For a second, the thought of approaching her comes into your head, that is, until her groupies walk in and start ordering shots for themselves. And she soon gets sucked in.

A man in a suit enters, and you assume he just got off of work in some corporate office. He soon has a scotch on the rocks in his right hand and is approaching the group of girls earlier mentioned, much to the envy of Mr. Shotgun. “Of course, ladies! The company is all mine!” you hear. The man doesn’t take so much as a sip of his scotch before handing it back and ordering more shots for the group. This young business man, like many others, while stressed, cannot hold his liquor like he wishes he could and only orders his scotch to show off his wealth and high standards; yet here he is, flirting with Miss Stripper and her friends, who probably all have boyfriends. The peer pressure he has to experience causes him to flaunt his money rather than use it for something he would want.

One of the offsetting people can be the ones who order some sort of hot beverage. They are normally just looking for something quick to ease their nerves before they run back to their house and back into bed. This group is generally seen as “morning people” who you want to kill when they walk into work with the biggest smile on their face. However, since this person is usually not seen until the dead of night, and because of his quick actions, his true personality is hard to fully understand.

A group that is easy enough to spot is the elderly who are just looking for a good time. You spot them tonight traveling in a pack, but they are so tight knit that they are not afraid to order what they actually want. If one wants a beer, they get a beer. If another wants a screwdriver, let them have it! This is a group of friends you can tell have been through the peer pressure phase and are absolutely done with it. No judgments here, just friends sharing some news over drinks, and maybe even a meal of some sort.

And that brings us to our last group: the Geeks. Now these you remember, perhaps you were one yourself. After all of this deep thinking—in a bar of all places—one would think you might be a bit smarter when it came to classes. These ones, while closely related to Mr. Shotgun, have friends, and although they may not always be with them, their drink choice remains the same: a soda. Now I know what you’re thinking, “Why order a soda in a bar?” Well my friend, these ones are more concerned with getting up early to start next month’s work than having fun. Whoa now, let’s not get offended, this is the exception, not the rule.

Whether you drink alone, or with friends, it doesn’t really matter. Just observing the groups surrounding you can give you an idea of how they behave. Mr. Shotgun, having no friends, can enjoy his beer any day, any time. The Hyperactive, who can guzzle vodka like a man just rescued from a desert would with water, decides tonight to have his/her mixed drink. Even Miss Stripper and Mr. Fancy Pants can have a good time with their friends. Hell, even the geeks are enjoying their Pepsis and Sprites. It’s obvious that peer pressure can have an effect on how a person behaves, but it can also affect his/her drinking habits, which one might not expect; and it is amazing how so little can influence someone’s decisions. This could be the perfect example of the “don’t judge a book by its cover” moral, because the way a person is acting may be because his buddies are surrounding him, but that’s another story. After all of this thinking, I could use a beer myself.

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