Approaching someone you fancy at a pub or bar may be more a case of alcohol giving you liquid courage rather than beer goggles, research suggests.
While some argue intoxication makes others seem more attractive, a new study suggests this is not the case.
But drinking alcohol makes people more likely to approach someone they already find attractive, according to the researchers.
Previous studies typically had people simply rate others’ attractiveness from photos while sober and while intoxicated, but the new research added the possibility of meeting the people being rated.
The study brought 18 pairs of male friends in their 20s into the laboratory to rate the attractiveness of people they saw in photos and videos.
They were also told they may be given the chance to interact with one of those people in a future experiment.
After they gave their ratings the men were asked to pick those they would most like to interact with.
They visited the lab on two occasions, once when they both received alcohol to drink – up to about a blood alcohol concentration of .08%, the legal limit for driving in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the United States – and another when they received a non-alcoholic drink.
The friends entered the lab together to mimic the social interactions that would typically take place in real drinking situations.
The researchers said they did not find evidence of beer goggles, as whether or not the men were intoxicated had no effect on how good-looking they found others.
Drink made men more likely to interact with those they found attractive
Professor Michael Sayette from the University of Pittsburgh, said: “The well-known beer goggles effect of alcohol does sometimes appear in the literature, but not as consistently as one might expect.”
However, according to the findings drinking alcohol may affect how people react to those they find attractive in a different way.
The researchers found the men were 1.71 times more likely to select one of their top-four attractive candidates to potentially meet in a future study compared to when they were sober.
They suggest alcohol may not be altering perception but rather enhancing confidence in interactions, giving the men liquid courage to want to meet those they found the most attractive.
‘Motivations and intentions change when drinking’
The researchers said the findings could have implications for therapists and patients.
“People who drink alcohol may benefit by recognising that valued social motivations and intentions change when drinking in ways that may be appealing in the short term, but possibly harmful in the long term,” said Prof Sayette’s dissertation student, Molly Bowdring of the Stanford Prevention Research Centre, Stanford University, who led the study.
The findings were published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.