Beer Goggles: How Alcohol Affects Attractiveness Perception

Enjoying a drink after work with coworkers, going out with friends, brunches, and similar activities have become the norm for socializing. Many can't imagine birthdays, weddings, and parties without an alcoholic beverage. We are more aware of the harmful physical effects of alcohol, but what does it do to our minds, and why do sometimes we regret the past night's choices?

What does 'beer goggles' mean?

The expression 'beer goggles' dates back to the late seventies and has stuck with us up until now. So what is it? Scientifically, beer goggles are a phenomenon that is induced by alcohol, which, in turn, affects our perception of beauty and attractiveness. Therefore, after a couple of drinks, we might feel attracted to someone whom we would not second-glance at while sober.

Does alcohol really make you see others more attractive?

It would be great if it was a straightforward answer. Unfortunately, it is both — yes and no. Attractiveness is multidimensional, meaning that we feel attracted to individuals not only based on their looks. However, alcohol has been shown to affect our perception of beauty, which is often equivalent to symmetry. Humans (as well as many other species) perceive symmetry as desirable. At the same time, alcohol reduces our inhibitions, making our behaviors and choices less restricted and thought out.

New study findings

Recently, a new attempt to tackle the beer goggles effect has been published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. The researchers tried to figure out whether the human perception of beauty — the symmetry of our faces — influences our feelings of attraction to others.

The researchers collaborated with a local bar, where they asked the guests to rate the symmetry and the attractiveness of faces. The faces were presented as pictures on a computer screen.

What they found was that with higher alcohol levels, the ability to recognize symmetry in human faces was affected, meaning that asymmetrical faces were seen as more symmetrical. However, even if the pub guests viewed the asymmetrical faces as more symmetrical, they did not find them more attractive. So, in terms of beer goggles — drunkenness did not increase attraction to others, regardless of how symmetrical or asymmetrical they were.

This does not mean that we do not feel more attracted to other people when we consume alcohol. It does mean, however, that even though our perception of beauty — in this specific case, symmetry — is distorted, it does not contribute to attraction. Still, other variables may increase the attraction to others when we are intoxicated. For example, consuming alcoholic beverages with others has been shown to increase extraversion and feelings of social bonding. Given that alcohol decreases inhibitions, if we have preexisting feelings for someone, it can be easier to act on those feelings when intoxicated.

How do we see ourselves after drinking?

Alcohol introduces toxins into our bodies, and these toxins affect our brains, making the connections and communication between our brain regions more difficult. These effects are not only limited to our brain but also between the brain and our bodies — that's why drunkenness is associated with slurred speech and loss of coordination.

Now, when it comes to our self-perception, it becomes distorted — that we know for sure. So, the way we see ourselves when we are drunk is not a correct representation of us. However, whether we view ourselves more positively or more negatively depends on several factors, such as surroundings, mood, level of alcohol, pre-existing self-esteem, and current well-being.

Research on the positive effects of alcohol has shown that alcohol affects social bonding and increases extraversion, including gregariousness. We can view ourselves as more attractive but less competent, and we may become prone to openness and feel less socially anxious. In addition, consumption of alcohol has been found to increase helping behaviors and generosity.

Other ways alcohol can make you feel

Alcohol, as previously mentioned, lowers our inhibitions, affects our decision-making abilities and memory, and distorts our perceptions. Given its effects, alcohol can make us:

  • More relaxed in social environments. Alcohol decreases self-awareness, which can make us feel more confident or relaxed in social gatherings.
  • More likely to take on risks when we are intoxicated. Alcohol affects our decision-making and cause-and-effect assessments; therefore, with impaired judgment, we are likely to see things less risky and/or dangerous.
  • More aggressive. Alcohol lowers our inhibitions, making us more likely to lose self-control and submit to our emotions.
  • More prone to sexual behaviors. Again, lowered inhibitions might lead us to one-night stands that we would have not gone through if we were sober.

It is important to note that alcohol effects will vary between individuals based on the level of intoxication, personality, surroundings, and situations.

Preventing regrets

The morning after drinking regrets, usually paired with headaches and other unpleasant hangover effects, is something that most of us experienced at least once in our life, and everyone who has knows they would not like to repeat that ever again. So, how can we prevent ourselves from making poor romantic or otherwise choices? The rule of thumb here is to not drink too much. It is perfectly okay to have a couple of drinks, but it should not exceed your limits. Knowing yourself and being conscious about your decreased inhibitions is something that can save you from the next morning's regrets. There are some tips on preventing the next morning's regrets and how to drink responsibly.

Things to consider

To begin with, alcohol will always negatively affect your physical and mental health. If cutting out alcohol completely is not something you want to do, you can always make sure that you drink responsibly. Here are some tips for it:

  1. Make sure to have sufficient and nutritious meals and hydrate throughout the day if you are planning a night out.
  2. If you are eating with alcohol — fatty and high-protein meals can slow down the intoxication because they are difficult to digest and stay in your stomach for longer.
  3. Have a glass of water with your drink. This will not only decrease the rate of drinking but will prevent dehydration, which also is one of the contributing factors to hangover headaches.
  4. Know yourself and your limits. When you start feeling the effects of your drink, make sure you are feeling fine and in control before ordering more.
  5. Take note of different alcoholic beverages and their time of consumption. A shot of liquor is consumed quickly, but its effects will take time.
  6. Drinking until bedtime is worse than stopping a bit earlier and having an alcohol-free hour or two before sleep. This can improve sleep quality, hydration, and potentially reduce the severity of a hangover.

Alcohol has several effects on our bodies, cognition, and emotions. Beer goggles are just one phenomenon resulting from a night out. While studies report mixed results on the beer goggles effect, some things are clear — alcohol distorts our perception of ourselves and others. Always make sure to drink safely and, if possible, avoid alcohol altogether to keep your mental and physical health in top shape.

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