Summary: Contrary to popular belief, alcohol doesn’t make people look more attractive, says a new study. The findings indicate alcohol consumption increases the likelihood of approaching people you already find attractive but doesn’t change how attractive you find them.
The study could challenge longstanding stereotypes about “beer goggles” and may have implications for behavioral therapy. The research adds a more realistic twist by involving the possibility of future interactions with the people being rated for attractiveness.
- The study found no evidence of the “beer goggles” phenomenon; participants’ ratings of attractiveness didn’t change when intoxicated.
- Men were 1.71 times more likely to select one of their top-four attractive candidates for a future meeting when they had consumed alcohol.
- The study involved 18 pairs of male friends in a controlled laboratory setting, offering both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages in different sessions to mimic real-life social drinking situations.
It’s “liquid courage,” not necessarily “beer goggles.”: New research indicates that consuming alcohol makes you more likely to approach people you already find attractive but does not make others appear more attractive, according to a report in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
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.
But this new study added a more realistic element: the possibility of meeting the people being rated.
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,” observes Sayette.
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.
Alcohol may not be altering perception but rather enhancing confidence in interactions, giving the men liquid courage to want to meet those they found the most attractive, something they may be much less likely to do otherwise.
These results could have implications for therapists and patients, the authors note.
“People who drink alcohol may benefit by recognizing that valued social motivations and intentions change when drinking in ways that may be appealing in the short term but possibly harmful in the long term,” says Bowdring.
About this psychology, attraction, and alcohol research news
Author: Lisa Kim
Contact: Lisa Kim – Stanford
Image: The image is credited to Neuroscience News
Original Research: Open access.
“Beer goggles or liquid courage? Alcohol, attractiveness perceptions, and partner selection among men” by Molly A. Bowdring et al. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs
Beer goggles or liquid courage? Alcohol, attractiveness perceptions, and partner selection among men
Perception of physical attractiveness (PPA) is a fundamental aspect of human relationships and may help explain alcohol’s rewarding and harmful effects. Yet PPA is rarely studied in relation to alcohol, and existing approaches often rely on simple attractiveness ratings. The present study added an element of realism to the attractiveness assessment by asking participants to select four images of people they were led to believe might be paired with them in a subsequent study.
Dyads of platonic, same-sex male friends (n = 36; ages 21–27; predominantly White, n = 20) attended two laboratory sessions wherein they consumed alcohol and a no-alcohol control beverage (counterbalanced). Following beverage onset, participants rated PPA of targets using a Likert scale. They also selected four individuals from the PPA rating set to potentially interact with in a future study.
Alcohol did not affect traditional PPA ratings but did significantly enhance the likelihood that participants would choose to interact with the most attractive targets, χ2(1, N = 36) = 10.70, p < .01.
Although alcohol did not affect traditional PPA ratings, alcohol did increase the likelihood of choosing to interact with more attractive others. Future alcohol–PPA studies should include more realistic contexts and provide assessment of actual approach behaviors toward attractive targets, to further clarify the role of PPA in alcohol’s hazardous and socially rewarding effects.