Beer Goggles Work the Other Way, Too

Alcohol use habits linked to perceived attractiveness


Having a few drinks could make you more attractive to others — but there's a catch.

Having a few too many could do just the opposite. In a new study, researchers asked sober people to look at photos of people who had been drinking and rate each person's face based on four categories: intelligence, likability, desire to meet the person and overall attractiveness.

Turns out drinking a moderate amount (equal to two small glasses of wine) made people more attractive, while drinking more than that amount made them less attractive. "Social" drinkers were also rated significantly more appealing than other types of drinkers, including recovering alcoholics and abstainers.

Women also tended to rate men more negatively than men rated women, especially in terms of intelligence — with women often classifying heavy drinkers as less intelligent.

For this study, 594 undergraduate students were asked to view images of 25 faces that were arbitrarily matched with drinking information. These participants were also asked to provide information about their own drinking habits.

Heavy drinkers were more likely to rate other heavy drinkers as appealing overall.

Lead study author Chelsie Young, a graduate student at the University of Houston, attributes this to the fact that people tend to like those who are similar to them.

"Consciously or not, you rate [others] as more appealing because they’re more similar to you," Young told the Yale Daily News.

This study defined heavy drinking according to guidelines from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Heavy drinking is more than seven drinks per week for women and more than 14 drinks per week for men, according to the NIAAA.

Recovering alcoholics were also rated as more attractive than abstainers, a finding which Young said her team found surprising.

"We think that maybe people thought more highly of a person who recognized they had a problem and were doing something to change it," Young said. "Some people see [abstainers] as very responsible. But other research suggests people think they’re stuck up and are different to people who drink.”

Young said her team hopes to investigate perceptions of motivations to consume alcohol in further studies.

This study was published online Dec. 14 in the Journal of Addictive Behaviors.

The NIAAA funded this research. Information on conflicts of interest was not available at the time of publication.