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How beer goggles work

April 1, 2012 - Washington

Even a little alcohol reduces the ability to assess facial symmetry, which plays a key role in attractiveness and human mate selection, a new study has revealed.

The effect is particularly pronounced in women, with female drinkers less able to distinguish between attractive and not so attractive men after just a couple of vodkas.

Facial symmetry, where one side of the face mirrors the other, is thought to have evolved as a mark of attractiveness as it signifies good genes. Both sexes select outward signs of genetic quality to ensure better offspring.

According to research, ratings of attractiveness in the opposite sex are highest when symmetry is at its greatest, research has shown.

It is also known that attractiveness rises when people have had a drink or three - the beer goggles effect.

For the study, male and female volunteers at Roehampton University were subjected to a battery of tests before and after consuming various drinks.

The tests included studying images of 20 paired faces that had been manipulated so that one was symmetrical and the other asymmetrical.

Results showed alcohol drinkers made significant errors in distinguishing between symmetrical and asymmetrical faces.

The study also found that women drinkers made more errors than men.

"The people in our study were not drinking heavily, and the effects we have found seem to increase with the amount of alcohol consumed," the Independent quoted Lewis Halsey, the study leader as saying.

"What we have shown is that people's ability to detect symmetry is part of the explanation for the beer goggle effects.

"The consequences could be considerable. A lot of people say they met their partner when they were drunk. Are their marriages shorter or longer lasting? Does it change the nature of the relationship?" he added.

The study has been published in the scientific journal Addiction.


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