Alcohol and the Perception of Beauty: Beer Goggles Effect?

Alcohol and the perception of beauty. Are they related? Don’t the Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time?  mused Mickey Gilley in his hit song. The lyrics he sang suggested that the prospect of spending the night alone was the cause. The song expressed amusement at “the way a man’s opinions change as he starts to face that lonely night.”

But could an increasing blood alcohol concentration as closing time approaches be the reason? A research team at the University of Bristol in the U.K. studied drinking alcohol and the perception of  beauty.

Alcohol and the Perception of Beauty: Research

alcohol and the perception of beautyIn this large study, participants were asked to rate the attractiveness of both male and female faces after their blood alcohol concentration levels were tested.  The investigators found no evidence of any relationships between alcohol consumption and either overall perception of the attractiveness of faces.1 In short, no relationship between alcohol and the perception of beauty.

But Kinky Friedman said ‘Beauty is in the eyes of the beer holder.’ Other research tends to support his view. One of the reasons may be connected to symmetry. Facial symmetry is a major factor in the perception of beauty.2  That is, people with more symmetrical faces tend to be seen as more attractive. Research suggests that at higher levels of intoxication, the ability to recognize symmetry declines.  And this declining ability to see symmetry extends to abstract geometric shapes as well.

Research also suggests that alcohol consumption has greater impact the less attractive the face.3  Thus, less attractive individuals appear to benefit more from the ‘beer goggles’ effect than more attractive individuals.

Most research strongly suggests that alcohol consumption increases the attractiveness of others. ‘This may help to explain increased frequencies of sexual encounters during periods of alcohol intoxication.’4

It appears that drinking causes people to see others as more attractive. In addition, alcohol and the perception of beauty seems to have behavioral implications. But Mickey Gilley expressed it more poetically in his  “Don’t the Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time.”

References

1.  Maynard, O., et al. Association of alcohol consumption with perception of attractiveness in a naturalistic environment.  Alco Alco,  2015; ePub(ePub): ePub.

2. For example,  Perrett, D., et al. Symmetry and human facial attractiveness. Evol Hum Behav, 1999: 20: 295-307. Rhodes, G., et al. Facial symmetry and the perception of beauty. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 1998; 5: 659-69.

3. Chen, X., et al. The moderating effect of stimulus attractiveness on the effect of alcohol Consumption on attractiveness ratings.  Alco Alco, 2014; 49(5)

4. Halsey, L., et al. An explanation for enhanced perceptions of attractiveness after alcohol consumption.  Alco, 2010; 44(4): 307-13.