Drinking alcohol doesn’t give you “beer goggles” after all

A new scientific study has revealed that while “liquid courage” exists, “beer goggles” are a myth.  

The conventional wisdom of alcohol’s effects is that intoxication makes others seem better looking. But, according to the new study, this phenomenon has not been studied systematically. Earlier research typically had participants simply rate other’s attractiveness while sober and while intoxicated based on photos. 

The report published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs indicates that while consuming alcohol makes you more likely to approach people you already find attractive, but does not make others appear more attractive.

To conduct the research, lead investigator Molly A. Bowdring, Ph.D., of the Stanford Prevention Research Center in Palo Alto, Calif. (affiliated with University of Pittsburgh at the time of this study), and her dissertation advisor, Michael Sayette, Ph.D., brought in 18 pairs of male friends in their 20s to the laboratory to rate the attractiveness of people they viewed in photos and videos. 

Participants were told that they may be given the opportunity to interact with one of those people in a future experiment. After providing attractiveness ratings, they were asked to select those with whom they would most like to interact. 

Pairs of men came into the lab on two occasions. On one occasion, both men received alcohol to drink (up to about a blood alcohol concentration of .08%, the legal limit for driving in the United States) and on the other occasion, they both received a nonalcoholic beverage. The researchers had friend pairs in the lab to mimic the social interactions that would typically take place in a real drinking situation. 

The researchers did not find evidence of beer goggles: Whether or not participants were intoxicated had no effect on how good looking they found others. “The well-known beer goggles effect of alcohol does sometimes appear in the literature but not as consistently as one might expect,” Sayette said. 

However, drinking did affect how likely the men were to want to interact with people they found attractive. When drinking, they were 1.71 times more likely to select one of their top-four attractive candidates to potentially meet in a future study compared with when they were sober.

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