Register for an account


Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.


Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.


The Myth of Beer Goggles?

Neuroskeptic iconNeuroskepticBy NeuroskepticAugust 20, 2015 3:32 PM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

A new study casts doubt on the idea that alcohol causes people to seem more attractive - the famous "beer goggles" effect. Psychologists Olivia Maynard and colleauges, of Bristol, UK, conducted an unusual "real world" experiment. Rather than doing their testing in the laboratory, they went into three Bristol pubs in the evening (5-11 pm) and recruited volunteers on the spot. With a total sample size of 311, it was a very large sample. Each participant was breathalyzed to estimate their blood alcohol level, and then asked to rate the attractiveness of a series of people via photographs. It turns out there's no correlation between breath alcohol (BrAC) and rated attractiveness.


In other words, people who'd drunk more were not in fact any more likely to find the faces attractive, either for opposite-sex or same-sex faces. So why not? Maynard et al. note that their results conflict with previous studies, including one from their own group, that did find a beer goggle effect. They say that

An important difference between these laboratory experiments and the present naturalistic study is the self-administration ofalcohol here, as compared with random allocation to alcohol or placebo conditions in laboratory experiments.

In other words, whereas alcohol may have an effect on perception of attractiveness under controlled conditions, this effect just isn't strong enough to be detectable in real-world conditions in which there are many other influences present. Maynard et al. also note that breath alcohol levels were relatively low in this study, and that higher doses might exert bigger effects. Either way, this is an interesting study, and I think we need more of these naturalistic experiments. It must also have been a fun study to participate in. Although perhaps not quite as good as the social psychologists who went to a sex club to naturalistically measure men's testosterone levels.


Maynard, O., Skinner, A., Troy, D., Attwood, A., & Munafò, M. (2015). Association of Alcohol Consumption with Perception of Attractiveness in a Naturalistic Environment Alcohol and Alcoholism DOI: 10.1093/alcalc/agv096

    2 Free Articles Left

    Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.


    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

    Want unlimited access?

    Subscribe today and save 70%


    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In