Can beauty be-er ignored? The science behind the ‘beer goggles’ effect

Summary: When people are sober, they tend to be more distracted by attractive faces. When they are intoxicated, their attention becomes equally divided by both attractive and unattractive faces.

Source: Edge Hill University

This Valentine’s Day, psychologists from Edge Hill University explore the science behind the ‘beer goggles’ effect and suggests there is some truth to this when considering the attractiveness of potential suitors..

Dr Rebecca Monk and Professor Derek Heim carried out a computer-based study in bars and pubs local to the University’s Ormskirk campus, by asking participants to respond to stimuli while ignoring photos of attractive and unattractive faces.

The findings of the study – published this week in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors – showed that while sober participants were distracted more by attractive faces, the attention of those who were intoxicated was diverted equally by both attractive and unattractive faces.

“Previous research into the beer goggles phenomena yielded inconsistent findings and has been largely limited to asking people directly about how attractive they find others” said Dr Monk, the lead author of the study. “By using an indirect measure of attention, our research was able to overcome some of these limitations.

This shows the researcher
“It’s remarkable that in our study participants were only mildly intoxicated, suggesting that it doesn’t take much alcohol at all for people to ‘put on their beer goggles’.” Image is adapted from the Edge Hill University news release.

“We know that attractive faces can pull attention away from the task at hand, but our research suggests that alcohol has the capacity to lessen this effect; to level the playing field.”

More than 120 participants – both sober and intoxicated – were asked to indicate on a laptop whether the letter ‘T’ was the correct way around or inverted, while being told to ignore the series of faces that were shown on the screen at the same time.

Professor Derek Heim added: “Most people have heard of the ‘beer goggles’ effect, and our research adds to the body of evidence showing that there is some truth to this anecdotal wisdom.


Credit: Edge Hill University.

“It’s remarkable that in our study participants were only mildly intoxicated, suggesting that it doesn’t take much alcohol at all for people to ‘put on their beer goggles’.”

All participants were debriefed and given information about help and support for their own and others’ alcohol consumption.

[divider]About this neuroscience research article[/divider]

Source:
Edge Hill University
Media Contacts:
Emmanuel Sander – Edge Hill University
Image Source:
The image is adapted from the Edge Hill University news release.

Original Research: Closed access
“Can beauty be-er ignored? A preregistered implicit examination of the beer goggles effect”. Monk, R. L., Qureshi, A. W., Lee, S., Darcy, N., Darker, G., & Heim, D.
Psychology of Addictive Behaviors doi:10.1037/adb0000555.

Abstract

Can beauty be-er ignored? A preregistered implicit examination of the beer goggles effect

The beer goggles effect refers to heightened perceptions of attractiveness resulting from intoxication. However, research in this area has produced mixed findings and has largely been reliant on self-report measures of perceived attractiveness. This study aimed to utilize an implicit measure to assess the beer goggles phenomenon in a preregistered study. One hundred twenty-nine heterosexual U.K. university students were recruited (74 female, Mage = 24.12 years, SDage = 9.09 years) in real-life drinking environments (classified post hoc as sober or lightly intoxicated based on Blood Alcohol Concentration [BAC]) to conduct a spatial cuing paradigm that measured the effect of distracting stimuli on task performance. Participants were asked to determine the orientation of a letter while ignoring any incidentally presented (un)attractive facial stimuli. Sober participants appeared to find attractive faces equally distracting, regardless of whether they were being cued to look toward or away from the face—a traditional attractiveness bias. Intoxicated participants, on the other hand, appeared to find attractive and unattractive faces equally distracting. Findings highlight the possibility that the beer goggles phenomenon results from a leveling of the playing field whereby attentional biases toward attractive faces are dampened as a result of light intoxication.

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