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"Beer Goggles": Explaining How it Actually Works

It is a phenomenon known as "beer goggles" -- when the person across from you at the bar or a party becomes better and better looking the more you drink. It's not a crazy myth; it's true, and there is actual science behind it.

It is universally accepted that people find symmetrical faces more attractive. Well, a new study in the journal Alcohol says booze dulls the ability to recognize asymmetrical faces.

To test their theory, researchers from Roehampton University in London took to bars armed with a laptop, containing photos of faces that were photoshopped to be either perfectly symmetrical or slightly asymmetrical.

First, people were given a quick breathalyzer test to confirm their alcohol consumption. They were classified as either sober or intoxicated, then examined the images.

Twenty images of a pair of faces -- one symmetrical, the other asymmetrical -- and then 20 images of a single face were shown, one at a time, to 64 drinkers. Participants were asked to state which face of each of the pairs was most attractive. They also had to determine whether each of the single faces displayed was symmetrical.

The sober people had a greater preference for symmetrical faces than the intoxicated ones. Sober people were also better at detecting whether a face was symmetrical.

What's more, the data suggest that men were less prone to losing their symmetry-detecting ability when intoxicated than women, which was a surprise to the researchers. The difference probably has something to do with the tendency for men to be more visually oriented.

"Men tend to ogle more than women do," said researcher Lewis Halsey, stating the obvious.

The results add a new twist to ongoing research into this very important matter, according to psychologist Benedict Jones of the University of Aberdeen.

"People in the past have compared attractiveness judgments of faces... to show that small amounts of alcohol see subjects give faces higher attractive ratings," said Jones.

Some researchers have suggested that this might be because people become better at detecting beauty or simply become a bit less picky as they get drunk.

But these new findings come as a surprise, said Jones, because the difference in ability between males and females was not seen in other studies.

"Those studies were conducted in the lab though," said Jones. "It's possible that these new data show this sex effect because people were tested out in the community, and men and women respond in slightly different ways to that."


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