While popular belief has long touted alcohol as a means of seeing others through “beer goggles”, recent research suggests the truth might be different. Alcohol, it seems, doesn’t make others appear more attractive, but instead boosts one’s confidence to approach someone they already fancy.
The lack of evidence supporting the “beer goggles” theory has been highlighted by researchers who noted that while the concept occasionally pops up in literature, its consistency is questionable.
The study, helmed by Molly Bowdring at Stanford Prevention Research Centre (associated with the University of Pittsburgh during the study) and guided by Professor Michael Sayette, brought 18 pairs of male friends into a laboratory setting. The participants rated the attractiveness of individuals in photos and videos, believing that they might meet one of these individuals later.
These pairs visited the lab twice. During one visit, both friends consumed alcohol up to the legal driving limit, while on the other occasion, they drank a non-alcoholic beverage. This setup mimicked the natural flow of social interaction in typical drinking scenarios.
Intriguingly, the intoxication level of the men had no bearing on how attractive they found the people in the images. However, when intoxicated, they were 1.71 times more likely to choose someone they had rated highly attractive for a potential future meeting.
This suggests that alcohol doesn’t necessarily change our perceptions, but rather emboldens us. It amplifies confidence, enabling individuals to approach those they’re already attracted to with greater assurance.
Bowdring emphasized the potential long-term consequences of these findings, particularly for individuals who consume alcohol. While the confidence boost may seem beneficial at the moment, it could lead to choices that are regrettable later.
These insights have been shared in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs and might provide therapists with a fresh perspective on counseling alcohol-consuming patients.