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April 22, 2009, 7:51 am
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The well-worn concept of 'beer googles' that make men view women as more
attractive the more they drink is a myth, claim scientists.
By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent
Last Updated: 4:38PM BST 19 Apr 2009
A study found that alcohol actually has the opposite effect and made men see
women as less attractive.
Drink also makes no difference to a man's ability to guess a woman's age, the
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group of 240 men and women in bars and cafes to look at photos of women and
comment on their age and attractiveness.
Half the participants used in the experiment had consumed alcoholic drinks, with
effects rated as "relaxed and benign", "blunted and disinhibited", "boisterous
and over-expressive", and "unambiguously drunk".
Some of the pictures of 10 young women aged 17 were digitally altered to make
them appear younger or older. Make-up was also applied digitally to a number of
The findings showed that alcohol reduced the ability of women to guess the age
of the photo models, but not men.
Both the effects of alcohol and prettifying a face with make-up had little
effect on men's judgment.
Dr Vincent Egan, from the University of Leicester, said: "This study suggests
that alcohol consumption and make-up use do not interfere with how old we
perceive someone to be.
"Another interesting finding was that overall participants who drank alcohol
actually rated all the women in the photos as less attractive, compared to the
participants who hadn't drunk alcohol. This seemingly flies in the face of the
commonly held notion of 'beer goggles'."
Participants consistently over-estimated the age of both mature and immature
faces by an average of 3.5 years.
Reporting their results in the British Journal of Psychology, the researchers
wrote: "Although alcohol limited the processing of maturity cues in female
observers, it had no effect on the age perceptions of males viewing female
faces, suggesting male mate preferences are not easily disrupted."
On a more serious note, they said the influence of alcohol should not be a
mitigating factor in the case of a man accused of having sex with someone
"Our study suggests that even heavy alcohol consumption does not interfere with
age-perception tasks in men, so is not of itself an excuse for apparent mistaken
age in cases of unlawful sex with a minor," they wrote.