Science confirms beer goggles effect

Beware the Beer Goggles this Festive Season!

  New studies are now looking into the phenomenon humorously referred to as "beer goggles", which causes drinking people to perceive others as more appealing than they normally would. The results both confirm what many of us already believed and shed more light on the effects alcohol has on sexual attraction. 
Beer goggles do appear to be real. Says researcher Marcus Munafo, experimental psychologist at the University of Bristol, "Everyone knows about beer goggles... but some of our results suggest that there's more going on than we might have thought."

The Beer Goggle Formula Revealed

18 Dec 10

Now scientists have actually created a way to measure the beer goggle effect. They point to the fact that when it comes to the attractiveness of that girl or guy across the bar, more comes into play than simply your own level of intoxication. Therefore visibility factors such as light, smokiness, and distance between you are added into the equation, which goes like this:

β = An2x δ(S+1)L x (Vo)²

  • An - The number of alcoholic units you've drank
  • S - Smokiness on a scale of 0 (clear air) to 10 (extremely smoky)
  • L -  Lighting measured in candelas (1= pitch black 150= normal lighting)
  • Vo - Snellen Visual Acuity (6/6 normal vision, 6/12 barely meets driving standards)
  • δ - Distance in meters from object of attraction
  • β - Beer Goggle Effect - on a scale of 1 - 100, with 1 = normal perception, at 50 people begin looking more attractive than normal, and at 100 everyone looks like supermodels

One Shot = 10% Attractiveness Increase

In Munafo's study, 84 heterosexual college students were given a chilled lime-flavored drink. Half had a dose of vodka (equivalent to a glass of wine or about a pint and a half of beer) added to their beverage. The other half, serving as the control, did not.

Fifteen minutes after they had finished their beverage, both groups were shown pictures of 40 other college students - both male and female. Somewhat surprisingly, not only did the volunteers that drank alcohol rate the pictures an average of 10% more attractive than the control group, but this was true for pictures of both opposite and same sex students.

Munafo had not expected this. "... [It's]  surprising to see this effect is happening at lower doses than you might think... If this effect is happening at lower doses than expected, it might be helpful for people who are predisposed to such behaviors to anticipate those situations and prevent them."

Hypothesizing that the "beer goggles" effect might be due to an elevated mood, researchers also asked volunteers from both groups to rate their feelings. However, moods between both groups were identical. Munafo elaborates, "This suggests that the effect we observed wasn't due to a general change in mood... The main question is whether these effects are specific to faces, or whether we would rate anything as more attractive after a drink." Another study did just that.

Elevated Perceived Attractiveness - Regardless of the Viewing Subject

Once again the study took place on a college campus, but this time at Georgetown University with only male subjects. These volunteers, found walking around campus, were asked how many drinks they had had that night, how drunk they considered themselves to be on a scale of 1-6, how attractive the women in a set of pictures (taken from an online dating service) were on a scale of 1-6, and interestingly, how attractive a series of landscapes (taken from an online photo sharing site) were on a scale of 1-6.

Results confirmed what the other study had found - perceived attractiveness increased as alcohol intoxication did, and this elevated level of perceived attractiveness was not discriminatory. The Bristol study revealed it was not changed by the viewed person's gender, and the Georgetown study revealed it was not changed by whether the object was even a person or not!

For Women the Effect Lasts Even AFTER They Sober Up!

Dr. Kirsten Oinonen, clinical psychologist for Lakehead University in Canada, had her own question regarding alcohol's effect on sexual attraction. Often times, studies like these were strongly focused on the "beer goggle" phenomenon in men. Dr. Oinonen wondered how women might be affected differently. "My study suggests that sober women who drink alcohol are less able to perceive facial symmetry when sober."

The research tested young women who drank a small, typical amount of alcohol per month- 40 drinks or less. While sober, these women were put through a facial symmetry test in which they were presented 30 pairs of faces and were asked to determine which was the most symmetrical in each pair. Results showed that for each additional drink a woman had in the past six months, their judgment got worse. This was even true for those who drank very seldom - women who had five drinks per month were still less able to perceive facial symmetry than women who didn't drink at all.

Says Dr. Oinonen, "When sober, these women are worse at judging facial symmetry, and therefore may find less attractive men more attractive. Given that symmetry is associated with attractiveness of faces, my study does suggest the possibility that alcohol intoxication may decrease facial symmetry perception, and make people look more attractive."

Researchers now believe alcohol has long-term effects on the brain's visual perception abilities. However, more research will need to be done to determine just how long this lasts or whether they may be permanent.

How Alcohol Affects Sex - Men vs. Women

While alcohol reduces inhibitions and increases perceived attractiveness, which may increase the likelihood of sex, the sexual experience may be hindered by alcohol. Men have the greater handicap, because when they consume alcohol, their testosterone production is inhibited.

For men, testosterone is necessary for libido and physical arousal. Therefore, the higher blood alcohol content a man has, the lower the level of pleasure and intensity he can reach from sex, and the more difficult it will be for him to maintain an erection and reach orgasm.

For women, the effect alcohol has on sex is slightly different. For them, alcohol actually increases their testosterone level and raises their level of arousal, desire, and pleasure. While, alcohol still lowers physiological signs of arousal in women, many report feeling less inhibited and more pleasure during sex after they've been drinking.



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