Scientifically Blonde | Beer goggles demystified
The illusion we often experience when drunk has a physiological basis
January 13, 2011, 5:09 am · Updated January 13, 2011, 12:00 am·
When I got to my friend’s New Year’s party around 11 o’clock, I sighed heavily at the disappointing scene. Lame music. Trashy girls. Ugly dudes. But I opened my bottle of wine and, in the New Year’s spirit, started taking healthy swigs. Before I knew it, I was doing tequila shots with my new best friends, and, by the time we were doing the countdown, I found myself looking around and thinking, “Damn! When did all the hot people get here?”
At the time, I was sure that the scummy crowd had somehow been replaced by a cast of smoking hot underwear models, but — looking back — it’s much more likely that I suffered from a classic instance of beer goggles (or, in my case, wine goggles).
For the few of you who are unfamiliar with this particularly vexing phenomenon, beer goggles are the illusion that people are more attractive when you’re under the influence of alcohol. Anecdotally, we suspect it to be true. (Ever swapped phone numbers with a 10, only to realize the next morning that he or she is more like a 6?) But the phenomenon of beer goggles is absolutely real.
The existence of beer goggles has been scientifically proven and explained. Although I’m surprised that there are other scientists out there who would devote their academic life to the study of beer goggles, it’s great that they exist. And after reading through some studies on the topic, I conclude that although the results might not be all that life-changing, the findings are freaking hysterical.
Most studies took college students and showed photographs of different faces. Drunk students rated the faces as up to 25% more attractive than their sober counterparts on a somewhat cruel but familiar 1-7 rating scale. Because proving the existence of beer goggles wasn’t enough, a team of scientists from England sought to determine why we find other people more physically attractive when we’re drunk. Turns out that when we’ve had a few drinks, we’re less able to perceive the asymmetry in people’s faces. (George Clooney-like faces are very symmetrical.)
And when it comes to beer goggles, nobody is off the hook. Both guys and girls are plagued by them, and the distorted lens is there whether we’re judging male or female faces. A particularly funny finding is that only in males — and only when they’re judging the appearance of females — do beer goggles last over 24 hours. (Hmm … I have a sneaking suspicion that male test subjects may be lying the morning after to protect their fragile egos).
Well, cool — there you have it. Beer goggles explained.
I spoke casually with some Penn students about the scientific confirmation of beer goggles. Almost everyone that I spoke to agreed that we should be less trusting of our eyes when we’re drunk. At first, I agreed. But then it struck me that that was something of a shallow, biatch thing to say.
It’s got to be a good thing that we’re less critical of appearances when we’re drunk. By making everyone 25% hotter, booze probably lets us meet some quality people we might otherwise have given the cold shoulder.
But I’ll admit that when I read these studies confirming the presence of beer goggles, my first thought was one of relief. I’m relieved that my peers find faces 25% more attractive when they are drunk because when I’ve been drinking, I usually look about 25% worse — sweaty, shiny face, smudged makeup, sloppy smile. Although I don’t believe in the divine, I can’t help but see this as Mother Nature’s way of evening things out.
So it doesn’t really matter if your Heidi Klum look-alike of the night isn’t all that hot. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, even if the beholder is drunk.
Sally Engelhart is a College junior from Toronto. Her e-mail address is engelhart@theDP.com. Scientifically Blonde appears on alternate Thursdays.