If you’ve ever woken up next to someone after a night out that you would never have thought twice about when sober, then you’ve probably experienced the impressive phenomenon known only as beer goggles.
Urban Dictionary defines beer goggles as a ‘phenomenon in which one's consumption of alcohol makes physically unattractive persons appear beautiful.’ It’s not a concept you’d want to be on either end of (let’s face it, it’s pretty insulting either way) but rest assured, beer goggles don’t discriminate, and both men and women, regardless of sexual preferences, often fall victim to this sinister alcoholic prank - it’s even been backed up by science.
The more drinks you have, the more attractive they’ll be
We all know that alcohol lowers our inhibitions, but a 2003 study confirmed thatbooze could also make us more generous when judging attractiveness.
The study, published in the scientific journal Addiction, took 80 heterosexual college students to a bar or restaurant to drink various amounts of liquor and rate the attractiveness of men and women in pictures.
As imagined, the men and women who drank the most were more likely to rate people’s attractiveness higher than those who abstained from the grog. However, the study also showed that attractiveness ratings did not increase when evaluating people of the same sex. Meaning, alcohol only changed the attractiveness perception of potential romantic partners.
Although the 2003 study was the first to confirm beer goggles, it was hardly the last. One study from 2012 found that the beer goggle effects can even be exaggerated by smoking. To all those ‘social smokers’ out there, we see you.
Beer goggles can even affect our judgement of inanimate objects and ourselves
One study published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism found that beer goggles can also affect our perception of the attractiveness of both animated and inanimate objects. During the study, researchers plugged 103 men and women with alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks and asked them to rate the beauty of both people and landscapes. Results showed that even unflattering photos of landscapes get more attractive after a few drinks.
Another paper, comically entitled Beauty Is In the Eye of the Beer Holder, also discovered that beer goggles could also affect how attractive we rate ourselves. During their journey to knowledge, researchers gave participants either an alcoholic or non-alcoholic drink, with half of each group being told correctly or incorrectly which drink they’d had. Participants then had to deliver a speech, after which they rated themselves on how attractive, original, bright and funny they thought they were. Of course, those who had alcohol rated themselves higher who didn’t. Conversely, sober people who were led to believe they had consumed booze also thought of themselves in a more positive light.
Finally, a 2008 study discovered that beer goggles aren’t exclusive to humans. The paper published in PLOS One found that male fruit flies that had been chronically exposed to alcohol also became less fussy when choosing a mate and would even try to mate with other males.
So, next time you’re out for a drink, and a pretty thing catches your eye, it might be good to take an extra second to consider whether it’s you whose or the booze who’s making the judgements. And, if you do wake up next to someone less than appealing, relax - after all, it happens to fruit flies too.