The Science Behind ‘Beer Goggles’ is Revealed

Last updated on November 4th, 2019

The term “beer goggles” is a long-standing reference to finding someone more physically appealing after a few drinks. It originated from an early episode of The Simpsons where Bart tries on an actual pair of beer goggles and finds Aunt Selma attractive.

There is an ongoing debate over whether this phenomenon is real or an excuse for poor judgment.

The findings showed that attractiveness ratings in all three categories were far higher in the alcohol group compared to the placebo group.British researchers from Bristol recently conducted lab experiments to find out, and the results surprised them. Participants were divided into two groups, with half given an alcoholic drink and the other half given a placebo of a non-alcoholic beverage. They then looked at images of 20 men, 20 women, and 20 landscapes. The findings showed that attractiveness ratings in all three categories were far higher in the alcohol group compared to the placebo group. Similar studies will now be conducted at pubs across Bristol to confirm the beer goggles theory.

“It’s a bit of fun, but there is a serious message,” said lead researcher Olivia Maynard. “If alcohol does change perceptions of attractiveness, then that could be a factor in the kind of risky behavior you see when people are drunk, such as unprotected sex.”

Violence is less apt to happen with beer goggles, while risky sexual behavior is the most common effect. In the UK, Birmingham Heartlands Hospital even created a mascot in 2010 called Beer Goggle Johnny as part of their campaign for sexual health. The campaign, backed by several national organizations, featured Johnny spouting phrases like “No glove, no love,” while also encouraging people to get tested and continue practicing safe sex while on vacation.

“Although the public is more aware of the dangers of unsafe sex, we are not seeing people put this into practice, which is worrying,” said Dr. Steve Taylor, sexual health and HIV consultant at Heartlands Hospital. “It’s while in holiday as people relax, soak in the sun and consume alcohol, that the chance of having unprotected sex is increased. We want holiday makers to take precautions, pack condoms in their suitcase and attend sexual health screenings upon their return if they are unsure.”

A separate study from Durham University argued that the beer goggles effect had less to do with attractiveness, but was rather about alcohol impairing one’s restraint and decision-making skills.A separate study from Durham University argued that the beer goggles effect had less to do with attractiveness, but was rather about alcohol impairing one’s restraint and decision-making skills. Dr. Amanda Ellison noted that alcohol closes down the part of the brain that controls impulses long before it shuts down the part of the brain that controls sexual urges. This latter part of the brain functions until a person is ready to pass out.

Because these studies demonstrate that alcohol can have a profound impact on impulse control and decision making, those who do drink should minimize their chances of risky behavior by designating a sober friend for the evening. If sexual activity is a possible, carrying condoms or making sure they are available at your bedside is also strongly encouraged.

If you or someone you know has a problem with alcohol abuse, please consider alcohol addiction treatment centers in your area.

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