Alcohol, Attraction & Sexual Activity: Beer Goggles Are Real!

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New research finds that consuming alcohol not only causes us to find others more sexually attractive, it also leads us to overestimate our own appeal.

Beer Goggles

Photo: Stuart Chalmers on Flickr

A literal interpretation of the "beer goggles" phenomenon.

She’s a 2 at 10pm and a 10 at 2am:

Researchers at the University of Bristol have recently presented research that demonstrates the well-known phenomenon of “beer goggles”- the effect where attraction levels increase as a person’s blood alcohol level rises, really does happen. Bristol’s Food Connections festival provided the perfect opportunity to collect a large sample of data for The Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group (TARG) at the University to examine perceptions of attraction and how it is altered due to alcohol intake.

The participants looked at photos of men, women, and landscapes before and after drinking. The participants were divided into two groups: a control group (non-alcoholic drinks) and the experiment group (those who received alcoholic drinks). Results? Attractiveness ratings were higher for all three images when rated by the drinking group. The researchers say this study has confirmed the “beer goggles” effect and are going to begin testing in three pubs in Bristol to further the research.

It’s not just you, it’s me too:

Last May, the British Journal of Psychology published a study showing that alcohol consumption is tied to higher self-perceived attraction ratings. The first part of the study revealed that the more alcohol the participants consumed, the more attractive they thought they were. The second study gave participants either soft drinks, or alcoholic drinks and asked them to rate themselves on being attractive, bright, original, and funny. The participants who had the alcoholic drinks rated themselves more highly than the placebo group, showing that not only does drinking make others more attractive, but also makes yourself seem more attractive, bright, original and funny. Shot of confidence, anyone?

Sex + Alcohol + Attraction. Putting it all together.

There is no question that alcohol inevitably influences sexual attraction. A collaborative study conducted at the University of Missouri, Columbia primed men with either alcohol-related words, or non-alcohol related control words, then showed them a series of images of young women and asked them to rate them on attractiveness or perceived intelligence. It was found that that even the expectancy of alcohol increases sexual desire: the experiment group gave higher attractiveness ratings to the photos after exposure to alcohol-related words, though it had no effect on perceived intelligence. In a broader sense, this means that simply thinking about drinking can affect your mindset and sexual expectations even before you go out to the bar.

Another qualitative study showed that “impaired judgment in accurately recognizing and controlling a potentially risky situation; and complete loss of control, memory loss, and ‘black-out,’” were the most likely predictors of risky behaviors while under the influence of alcohol. Heavy drinking has also been correlated with increased risk of HIV due to inconsistent condom usage.

In conclusion…

The lesson we can gain from this research? Keep consent and safety as your number one priority if you decide to go out drinking. Strategies like having “buddy system” with friends and carrying safer sex supplies with you may help prevent you from engaging in risky behaviors you might regret the next day!

Sasha Aurand has a BA in psychology from Indiana University, with a minor in Human Development and Family Studies. Her research includes work with Alan Roberts’ attraction studies.

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