Scientists Explain Beer Goggles


Late night at a bar, you glance across the room and see a man resembling Don Draper. The next day you realize he looks more like Quasimodo than the dapper ad man. Anyone who has ever imbibed in a few (or many) cocktails knows of beer goggles (everyone looks hotter after you've had a few drinks). Researchers recently learned what causes them.

Most humans find symmetry attractive and pursue mates possessing balanced features. Researchers in England wondered if alcohol ruined our ability to detect symmetry, causing the so-called beer goggles effect. Lewis Halsey of Roehampton University in London and his colleagues headed to the pubs with some pictures. They approached 64 students, asking them to take a Breathalyzer (to determine sobriety; half were sober, the other half drunk) and instructed them to examine pictures. Students looked at 20 pairs of faces—one symmetrical and one asymmetrical—and then they looked at 20 individual visages. After inspecting the pairs, the participants informed the researchers which pictures were more attractive. When they examined the individual pictures, they had to determine if the faces were symmetrical. Sober students were more attracted to the pictures of symmetrical faces and could better determine symmetry than their drunken counterpoints.

The researchers concluded that alcohol impairs our ability to sense symmetry and drunk women were less capable of detecting balance than drunk men. The researchers suspect that men are better at sensing attractiveness because they are more visual (read: they ogle more).