Study: The science behind 'beer goggles'
Research shows how alcohol inhibits our ability to detect asymmetrical faces.
Tue, Aug 17, 2010 at 08:44 PM
Ever wondered why someone you wouldn’t normally be attracted to seems so much better-looking after you’ve thrown back a couple of Kamikazes? Turns out that the term “beer goggles” is more than just a figure of speech: Discovery News reports on a study published in a recent issue of the journal Alcohol that suggests the scientific reasons for enhanced perception of attractiveness after alcohol consumption.
It turns out that facial symmetry — and alcohol’s effect on our ability to perceive it in others — has a lot to do with it. Published by Lewis Halsey, Joerg Huber, Richard Bufton and A.C. Little of London's Roehampton University, the research shows that alcohol diminishes our ability to identify asymmetrical faces. Previous research has shown that people tend to find balanced, symmetrical features more attractive, but smashed suitors are less likely to notice when the left and right sides of a face are uneven.
The researchers collected their data out in the field — specifically, campus bars near the university. Armed with a Breathalyzer and a laptop, the team asked sober and intoxicated students to review images of faces. Sixty-four participants looked at 40 images each: 20 mismatched pairs of symmetrical and asymmetrical faces, and 20 single faces. Of the pairs, students were asked to choose the face they found more attractive; of the single faces, they were asked to say whether they were symmetrical or not.
The Roehampton team found that sober students were both better at identifying and more attracted to symmetrical faces than their intoxicated counterparts. They were also surprised to discover that women were more prone than men to losing their symmetry-detecting ability after a few drinks — a result that had not previously been seen in similar lab-based studies on symmetry detection. Psychologist Benedict Jones of the University of Aberdeen posits that this sex effect may simply be the result of men and women responding differently to public settings.