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You've probably heard of (and maybe experienced) the "beer goggles" phenomenon, but you may be surprised to hear that it might work both ways.

Julie Mazziotta
March 04, 2015

You've probably heard of (and maybe experienced) the "beer goggles" phenomenon, but you may be surprised to hear that it might work both ways.

A small, new study published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism found that a single glass of wine made drinkers look more attractive to (sober) judges, versus when the participants hadn't had anything to drink.

Researchers invited 40 students to imbibe in the name of science. To capture the way they looked, the researchers took three photos of the student’s faces: the first when sober, then after one drink, and the last after a second glass of wine. Then, a separate group of students were shown photos of each person in two sets: either the sober shot next to the picture of them after one drink, or the sober photo beside the snap of the drinker after two.

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In the end, those who'd enjoyed one drink were rated as more attractive than when they were sober. Interestingly, the trend stopped there—after two drinks, the evaluators preferred the pre-alcohol picture.

The researchers aren’t exactly sure why this happened, but they have a few theories. It may be that after a drink, the participants’ eyes had greater pupil dilation (which is associated with increased attractiveness), or that the alcohol relaxed the muscles in their faces, but not too much, as it might after two drinks.

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It’s also possible that the alcohol brought out the rosiness of their cheeks, Marcus Munafò, PhD, the senior study researcher told Live Science. "The people who had consumed a small amount of alcohol had a slightly rosier complexion. Rosiness is attractive because it characterizes good physical health characteristics."

Munafò and his fellow researchers are interested in how these results might change in a natural environment, like a bar or party where everyone has had a drink or two. "You consume a drink, so you see other people as more attractive. But you also become more attractive yourself because you've consumed a drink. And exactly how that would play out in the real world, we don't know," Munafò said.

So, would two drinkers cancel each other out, or would they dazzle each other with their enhanced allure? We should all probably head out for some happy hour drinks to find out—for science.

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