That subtle glance from across the room. A quick wink from an attractive – albeit somewhat blurry – stranger sitting across the bar. The moment you realize the person you’re speaking with is getting more and more attractive while your speech is perhaps becoming a bit more slurred.
That’s when you don the old tried-and-tested, handy dandy set of beer goggles.
"Beer goggles" is the nickname given to a person’s perception when they are under the influence of alcohol, which often makes someone more attracted to people who may not be all that enticing to the drinker otherwise. But are beer goggles really a thing? Researchers writing in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors seem to think so.
To determine whether alcohol impairs a person’s ability to deem attractiveness, researchers turned to bars and pubs located near their Edge Hill University research lab in the UK. Here, they asked more than 120 people, both sober and intoxicated, to indicate on a laptop whether the letter “T” was the correct way up or inverted while a person simultaneously attempted to ignore a series of faces shown on the screen at the same time
Sober people were more distracted by attractive faces, but intoxicated participants were just as distracted by both attractive and unattractive faces. Though it’s not clear what features or characteristics were deemed “attractive” by the researchers.
"We know that attractive faces can pull attention away from the task at hand, but our research suggests that alcohol has the capacity to lessen this effect; to level the playing field,” said Dr Rebecca Monk, the lead author of the study, in a statement.
Monk pointed out that most research on the effects of alcohol is conducted in research labs not in a real-world setting, which may affect the reults.
"Previous research into the beer goggles phenomena yielded inconsistent findings and has been largely limited to asking people directly about how attractive they find others," Monk said. "By using an indirect measure of attention, our research was able to overcome some of these limitations.”
Drinking alcohol like beer lowers a person’s inhibitions and helps one to relax, which makes flirting a bit easier, according to Alcohol.org. Previous research has suggested that visual impairments caused by alcohol reduces a person’s ability to detect asymmetry in faces and makes a person less picky about symmetry, a common indication of attractiveness.
"Most people have heard of the 'beer goggles' effect, and our research adds to the body of evidence showing that there is some truth to this anecdotal wisdom," co-author Professor Derek Heim added.
"It's remarkable that in our study participants were only mildly intoxicated, suggesting that it doesn't take much alcohol at all for people to 'put on their beer goggles'."