Oct 05, 2023
Are beer goggles real? Study says no, but liquid courage is
(WWJ) – We’ve all heard of the terms “liquid courage” and “beer goggles.” A new study conducted by researchers at Stanford University says only one of them is real – liquid courage. The research
(WWJ) – We’ve all heard of the terms “liquid courage” and “beer goggles.”
A new study conducted by researchers at Stanford University says only one of them is real – liquid courage. The research indicates that consuming alcohol makes you more likely to approach people you already find attractive.
But it doesn’t make other people 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,” the report says. “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 a new study conducted by lead researcher Molly A. Bowdring, Ph.D., of the Stanford Prevention Research Center, added a “more realistic” element: the possibility of meeting the people being rated.
She 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. Researchers had them come in pairs to “mimic the social interactions that would typically take place in a real drinking situation.”
The 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.
The pairs of men came into the lab on two occasions – once given alcohol up to about a .08% BAC, and once with a nonalcoholic beverage.
After the pairs’ two visits, researchers “did not find evidence of beer goggles,” according to the report, noting whether or not they were intoxicated has “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,” Sayette observed.
But 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, according to the study.
“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,” the report says.
Speaking to WWJ’s Luke Sloan, Bowdring explained why the research was only conducted on men.
“Alcohol-related social rewards are particularly strong for males, meaning there’s a greater likelihood of observing alcohol’s effects among this group,” she said. “This was my dissertation study, we only had so much money to conduct it, which means the sample was limited in size and we needed to maximize our chances of detecting effects.”
Researchers say similar studies in the future should include “more realistic contexts and provide assessment of actual approach behaviors toward attractive targets, to further clarify the role of (perception of physical attractiveness) in alcohol's hazardous and socially rewarding effects.”
The full study can be found on the JSAD website.