Study: One Drink Makes You More Attractive to Others, but It’s Downhill From There

Posted on April 9th, 2015
Posted in News

The idea of “beer goggles” is pretty simple, and can be summed up succinctly in the opening lines of country singer Mickey Gilley’s 1976 chart-topping hit:

The girls all get prettier at closing time.

They all begin to look like movie stars.

The girls all get prettier at closing time.

When the change starts taking place,

It puts a glow on every face

Of the falling angels of the back street bars.

Science has proven what Gilley—and no doubt countless others over the years—learned from honkytonks, bars and office parties as the pool of prospective sexual partners dried up at the onset of last call.

But a new study out of England has shown that one’s level of inebriation isn’t the only factor at play in two lonely hearts taking an alcohol-induced romantic plunge. The so-called beer goggles that make others look more attractive after a few beers might also work in reversealbeit in moderation.

Risky Sexual Behavior

In other words, having a drink might make the consumer appear more attractive to someone who’s completely sober instead of just the other way around. However, too much of a good thing will work in reverse.

“This was a small exploratory study, so the finding will need to be replicated, but it was interesting that attractiveness seemed to increase after one drink but then fall back after a second drink,” said one of the researchers, Prof. Marcus Munafo of the University of Bristol.

Published in Alcohol and Alcoholism in February 2015, researchers aimed to find out about risky sexual behavior and alcohol’s relationship to it, specifically the impact on facial attractiveness that might lead to a couple hooking up in a social situation. To the authors’ knowledge, “the direct effects of alcohol on the perceived attractiveness of the consumer have not … been systematically investigated.”

Other studies have shown alcohol consumption can change the appearance of the face by making it more flush; that facial expressions change with changes in mood, sexual arousal and sex expectancy; and that facial expressions of happiness, especially among women, influence ratings of attractiveness.

Hot or Not

For this study, researchers collected 54 male and 50 female college students between the ages of 18 and 30 and took photos of them sober. Photos were then taken of the participants after one drink (equivalent to 8.4 ounces of wine), and again after they’d had a second drink. Each drink was consumed in about a half-hour’s time.

Slides were prepared showing two sets of photos side by side. One set showed the subject sober and the subject after one drink, the other sample showed the subject sober and after two drinks.

Twenty men and 20 women were then asked to rate the photographs in order of attractiveness. Subjects having consumed the low sample of alcohol were determined to be more attractive than the photos of their sober selves. However, the comparison of photos between sober and after a second drink favored the sober subjects.

Consumer Benefit

“The present study suggests that alcohol consumption also increases ratings of attractiveness of the consumer by other people,” the authors write. “That is, in addition to perceiving others as more attractive, an alcohol consumer may also be perceived by others as more attractive, and therefore receive great sexual interest from potential mates. An increase in such attention from others may also positively reinforce alcohol consumption, particularly in social contexts.”

Given that the preference of respondents was based on photographic stimuli alone of identically prepared photos, and considering previous studies, researchers said the cause for preferring someone having consumed a light amount of alcohol may have to do with the optimal flushing, or rosiness, of their face and that this might be a very short window. They also speculated “low doses of alcohol may lead to an increase in positive mood that is apparent in subtle smiles and relaxation of tonic muscle tone.”

In other words, characteristics of being uptight have left the face.

The study was only exploratory, and considered a small sample group of young people. Researchers suggest further study among a larger, more representative group would be valuable. It also suggested value in a study “when ratings are taken in a naturalistic setting in the presence of other cues to attractiveness and sexual behavior.”

Still, any new findings are unlikely to displace the drunkard eyeing the “beauty” at the end of the bar in countless punch lines, movie scenes and country songs.

By Martin Henderson

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