Even if you’re not a scientist, you’ve probably noticed the “beer goggles” effect: People start to think that everybody looks better after they have had an alcoholic beverage or two.
But new research suggests that the person doing the drinking looks better, too, so long as they keep it to a moderate amount.
In a recent study cited on PsyBlog, University of Bristol psychologist Jana Van Den Abbeele and her colleagues asked 20 men and 20 women to rate the attractiveness of people in three photographs: sober, after drinking 250 milliliters of wine (or about a third of a bottle), and after drinking 500 milliliters of wine (or about two-thirds of a bottle).
The photos with the highest rating? After the participant had consumed a third of a bottle.
While the authors couldn’t be certain of what caused the change, they contend that there are two mechanisms at work:
• Alcohol adds red to people’s cheeks. This makes people look healthier and thus more attractive. “In a sense, the action of alcohol on coloration may ‘hijack’ mechanisms designed to promote attraction to healthy mates,” Van Den Abbeele and her colleagues write.
• Alcohol helps people to loosen up. “Low doses of alcohol may lead to an increase in positive mood that is apparent in subtle smiles and relaxation of tonic muscle tone,” the authors write. And looking relaxed makes you seem more approachable.
But — as you also might have guessed — alcohol wasn’t universally a good thing for people’s looks. Once a participant had two-thirds of a bottle of wine, their attractiveness ratings started to go down. Plus, other research suggests that people look dumber when they’re holding a beer.
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