Alcohol does not make people more attractive, study finds

Beer goggles are myth, argue the researchers.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Representational image of people drinking at a bar.jpg
Representational image of people drinking at a bar.


A new study, cleverly called “Beer Goggles or Liquid Courage? Alcohol, Attractiveness Perceptions, and Partner Selection Among Men,” is revealing that the long-held myth that alcohol makes people more attractive is not true.

The research, published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, saw Stanford and Pittsburgh researchers enlist 36 men to attend two laboratory sessions: one where they drank and one where they were sober.

Rating levels of attractiveness

In both sessions, the men were shown pictures and videos of potential partners and asked to rate their level of attractiveness. “The present study added an element of realism to the attractiveness assessment by asking participants to select four images of people they were led to believe might be paired with them in a subsequent study,” wrote the authors in their objectives.

The study found that “although alcohol did not affect traditional [Perception of physical attractiveness (PPA)] ratings, alcohol did increase the likelihood of choosing to interact with more attractive others.”

In other words alcohol does give “liquid courage” but is not responsible for “beer goggles.”

It should be noted however that the study is limited as it contained a very small sample size, only evaluated men and was conducted in a very controlled setting.

“Future alcohol–PPA studies should include more realistic contexts and provide assessment of actual approach behaviors toward attractive targets, to further clarify the role of PPA in alcohol's hazardous and socially rewarding effects,” wrote the authors in their conclusion.

Deadly effects and more

The find may offer yet another reason to stay sober as many past studies have indicated that alcohol can be extremely damaging.

In 2018, research that covered 16 years of data collection and analysis from 1990 to 2016 in a total of 195 countries found that even in moderation alcohol had deadly effects, being associated with cancer, heart disease, and more illnesses.

“With the largest collected evidence base to date, our study makes the relationship between health and alcohol clear – drinking causes substantial health loss, in myriad ways, all over the world,” said at the time Max Griswold, senior researcher and lead author on the paper. 

In 2019, a study conducted in nonhuman primates found that alcohol consumption can slow the rate of growth in developing brains for adolescents and young adults. 

"Chronic alcohol self-intoxication reduced the growth rate of brain, cerebral white matter and subcortical thalamus," the researchers wrote at the time.

In 2022, a study found that alcohol was particularly more detrimental to people under 40. “Our message is simple: young people should not drink,” said at the time senior author Dr. Emmanuela Gakidou, Professor of Health Metrics Sciences at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine.

More recently, a 2023 study conducted on mice found that alcohol increases brain inflammation, potentially impacting decision-making and impulsivity.

If these studies do not scare you then the ones about curing alcohol addiction could. This research shows that alcoholism is a serious disorder that is notoriously hard to treat.