Beer Goggles are Real, and Science Explains How They Work

Getty Images / Scott Halleran

After a few swigs of beer, a person you might not have otherwise glanced at twice suddenly looks … attractive?

That’s the time-honored theory behind beer goggles, which posits that being drunk transforms a Plain Jane (or James) into a knockout. And science has come to the rescue with an elegant explanation for why beer goggles aren’t just a figment of our imagination and are, in fact, very real — and successful.

Matthias Liechti, a researcher from Basel University Hospital, took on this noble cause when he noticed that there was a deluge of research focusing on how controlled substances affected the way we behave and think, but beer was getting short shifted. So Liechti and co. gathered 60 volunteers; half scored a half-liter of beer, the other half were given non-alcoholic beer.

In research that will appear in the next edition of the journal Psychopharmacology, Liechti and his team found that drinking a glass of beer — just one measly glass — helped people spot “happy” faces faster and empathize with another’s happiness more. In other words, drinking beer is usually seen as a bit of a depressor — it’s harder to identify social cues — but beer weirdly dials the emotional tuner up. That’s a bit of a psychological twist, because oxytocin is usually credited with being a “social lubricant” in helping us to bond with other humans, but in this case, clinking a couple beers together and “Cheers!”-ing makes for a potentially stronger bond — particularly among women.

Importantly for dating situations, beer “also facilitates the viewing of sexual images, consistent with disinhibition, but it does not actually enhance sexual arousal,” Liechti said at a presentation of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology in Vienna. Beer doesn’t necessarily turn someone on, but it makes approaching a person and just being more naturally you a lot easier, promoting beer to ultimate Hitch status.

Which means the combination of being able to identify happier faces with becoming a little socially looser — and therefore less stilted — makes beer the real love potion you should be imbibing. At the very least, it’s more of an incentive for singletons to hit Oktoberfest celebrations or ease their way into the awkwardness of holiday party season with a trustworthy pint of beer at their side.

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