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New research suggests ‘beer goggles’ aren’t real

The longstanding belief that drinking alcohol makes other people appear more attractive is a myth, says a new report published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

Not to be the bearer of bad news, but if you’ve ever woken up next to someone you were certain was cuter at the bar the night before – you can’t blame it on the alcohol.

At least not according to new research conducted by the Stanford Prevention Research Center in Palo Alto, California. The study set out to discover whether ‘beer goggles’ – or alcohol’s ability to make us perceive others as more attractive – is real or not.

In previous attempts at debunking the theory, which is believed to have originated in the 1980s, researchers have typically asked individuals to rate the attractiveness of people in photographs while sober and then while intoxicated.

Their answers often produced mixed results, leading to no conclusive evidence about whether beer goggles are a real phenomenon.

The latest study in California took the same route but added in another important factor. How likely would participants want to meet someone from the photographs they had just seen after having an alcoholic drink?

They found that alcohol consumption does not increase the likelihood that we’ll find someone else attractive, but instead arms us with the ‘liquid courage’ needed to approach others in the first place.

Credit: TIMES

To conduct the research, 18 pairs of male friends were welcomed into the laboratory.

Each of the participants was aged in their twenties. They were interviewed in pairs in order to mimic what a real social interaction while out drinking with friends would be like.

To begin, the researchers asked the pair of men to rate the attractiveness of someone they saw in photos and video clips. They did this once while they were drinking an alcoholic beverage (resulting in a legal US blood alcohol level of 0.8 percent) and again on a different day, while they were sipping on a non-alcoholic beverage.

Surprisingly, their answers revealed that being intoxicated or sober had no impact on how good-looking they found others. Then came the big question.

Once they answered with their attractiveness level rating, participants were told that they may be given the opportunity to meet someone from the photos or videos later on. They were asked to list one individual whom they most wanted to meet.

Their answers revealed that the men were 1.71x more likely to choose to meet one of their top-four attractive candidates when they were drinking compared to when they were sober.

So in the end, it seems that we may not necessarily be inclined to see everybody as better-looking when drinking. Instead, alcohol arms us with the self-confidence needed to act on our attraction.

Which, perhaps for some, isn’t such a bad thing.