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Researchers build pub to find out why people get hammered

A UK university wants to understand why people get drunk. So it spent $33,000 on a pub laboratory with microphones and hidden cameras to solve a great human mystery. (Maybe not so much of a mystery?)

The dapper Dr. Moss in the special research pub.
London Evening Standard/Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Remember that time when you woke up in the middle of those Ikea playballs? And realized you were in Belgium, instead of Switzerland?

What about that time when you sang the collected works of Wham! to a rapt audience and then woke up with a beer mat stapled to your head?

I want to know why you did it. What propelled you to the sort of excess that made you an object of laughter for at least six months?

Actually, it's not just me who wants to know. It's the researchers at London South Bank University. They, you see, are fascinated with the deeper motivations behind getting plastered beyond control.

Some will offer the sniffy explanation that the English don't open their pubs for very long, which causes them to drink too much, too quickly and then fall over like slain villains at the end of movies.

The researchers don't seem to be quite convinced. So they persuaded some apparently sober purse-holders to give them 20,000 British pounds (around $33,300) to build a pub in which they could examine drinkers.

As the London Evening Standard reports, the researchers got some handy people in to turn a study room into a pub.

A real pub where real people get really drunk apparently offers too many potential distractions to give pure scientific results.

In the controlled environment of the psychologists' own pub, the researchers have inserted microphones and hidden cameras to really master why people get plastered.

As with so many researchers, this team thinks it's very clever. One experiment involves serving non-alcoholic beer and telling the guinea pigs -- who are students (they'll do anything for a drink) -- that it's alcoholic.

Please forgive me, but I've never tried a non-alcoholic beer that doesn't taste like someone laced chicken broth with cake mix.

However, Dr. Tony Moss, head of psychology at the university, told the Evening Standard: "It's surprisingly easy to convince people that what they're drinking is an alcoholic beverage."

Moss and his team aren't just interested in why people drink. They're fascinated by how a "night out" begins. Of course, they're also moved by what happens when it turns into, say, "an excuse-to-get-out-of-your-angst-ridden-head-and-get-someone-to-kiss-you."

He admitted to the Evening Standard: "Of course, there are studies we do which involve administering alcohol to people, so that we can see what happens later on."

Oh, you'll never guess what happens later on. That's why you need scientific research. For which, the researchers say, there are many volunteers.

When you've been given your own pub in which to perform experiments, the temptation to be imaginative must be extreme. Moreover, the private information you overhear (and film) must offer the same kind of joy that spy services get when they discover that a foreign head of state is partial to being whipped by women in leather nuns' habits.

Still, the university is convinced that this is serious academic work. Masters student Karis Humphreys explained the social positives from the research: "We all drink a lot, so you can see the findings in your day-to-day life."

Yes, Karis, we see them every day. Do we really need research to remind us?