Are "beer goggles" (or "wine goggles") real?

Dec 1, 2014

Q: Why is it that we find people more attractive after a few drinks? Is it because our inhibitions are lowered, or is there an actual psychological reason behind "beer goggles"?

A: The phenomenon of so-called "beer goggles," or finding people more attractive after downing a few drinks, sounds like a fiction that couldn't possibly be borne out by science. However, researchers in China decided to study this question, and their report in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism shows surprising results.

The researchers showed participants, divided into alcohol consumption or placebo groups, a variety of faces and landscapes, then asked them to rate them on a scale of attractiveness. They found that faces and landscapes that participants rated as having "low attraction" initially were rated as more attractive after the participants consumed alcohol. However, participants' ratings of highly attractive faces and landscapes were unaffected by alcohol.

The researchers submit this theory: "Alcohol consumption decreased participants' ability to distinguish between symmetric and asymmetric figures. Thus, it is possible that alcohol drinkers perceived the asymmetric faces as symmetric, leading to higher attractiveness ratings."

The researchers did not see any fluctuations in emotions or anxiety levels after alcohol consumption, so they believe that visual deterioration after drinking is the principal mechanism at play. That means that the same effects that alcohol can have on our body's ability to walk a straight line or drive a car can also impair our perception of the symmetry of objects around us—including the faces of our drinking companions.

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