In A Nutshell
Your buddy’s just woken up next to someone he wouldn’t look twice at on any other day, and he claims it was only because of beer goggles. While it might be tempting to call him out on just how unlikely that is, it’s actually been scientifically proven that beer goggles are a real thing. It all has to do with not just a lowering of our inhibitions with alcohol, but also with how alcohol changes our ability to perceive symmetry in faces—and therefore, altering how attractive we think someone really is.
The Whole Bushel
It’s a common enough scenario, usually in the beginning of tragically bad movies or in college. One person wakes up with a hangover and looks at who they’re lying in bed with. They’re horrified. It never would have happened if they hadn’t been so drunk the night before, and they blame the beer for their mistake.
The idea of beer goggles has been variously called truth and a misconception, but research has shown that there’s a pretty definite correlation between being drunk and just how attractive people of your favored gender appear.
According to studies done by Roehampton University and the University of Bristol’s Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group have both verified that there’s something to the idea that we’re more likely to find people attractive after we’ve had a few.
In the study done by the University of Bristol, participants were given a drink. The control group was given non-alcoholic drinks, while the other group was given the real thing. They were then asked to rate pictures on how attractive they were—20 women, 20 men, and 20 landscapes (who are we to judge?). Results confirmed that the group who had actually had been given alcohol rated everything as more attractive.
The Roehampton University study was a bit more extensive, and focused on a particular element of attractiveness—symmetry. It’s already been shown that the more symmetrical a person’s face is, the more attractive they’re likely to be found. Participants were given a few drinks, and then asked to compare pairs of pictures. The pictures had been doctored in Photoshop, making one of the pairs symmetrical and the other asymmetrical; participants had to say which was more attractive as well as tell whether or not it was symmetrical.
After even just a couple drinks, participants could no longer successfully tell which of the faces was symmetrical. Women made more mistakes than the men, and surprisingly, it didn’t require anyone to be in a state that was even approaching what we’d consider wasted. After only three drinks, there was a noticeable impairment in a person’s capability to process symmetry.
And that makes us more likely to think that people are more attractive than we’d see them when we’re sober. As people drank more, their perceptions became less and less accurate—real evidence of what we’ve long said really happened that night.
It’s also been argued that alcohol’s tendency to lower inhibitions has more of an impact on where we wake up in the morning than how we see potential partners. According to a lecturer from Durham University, beer goggles have less to do with how attractive we think someone is and more to do with what’s going on in our own brain. Alcohol switches off parts of our brain that deal with decision-making and keeping us under control; when alcohol’s not at play, we’re not just looking at a person’s attractiveness, we’re looking at the whole package.
Start drinking, and that rationality gets thrown to the wind, along with caution.
Either way you look at it, beer goggles absolutely are not a myth. Thanks to scientists determined to get the truth, we can now say with certainty that it wasn’t our fault, science made us do it.
Show Me The Proof
The Telegraph: Beer goggles really do exist, finds researchers
The Independent: Scientists solve the mystery of how beer goggles work
Alcohol Journal: An explanation for enhanced perceptions of attractiveness after alcohol consumption
The Telegraph: Scientists explain ‘beer goggles’