Johannesburg - For a long time beer goggles were the go-to excuse to explain an embarrassing drunken hook-up the night before.
Ask those wise old bar flies who for centuries have polished bar counters with their elbows and they would explain the workings of alcohol on the human pursuit for a mate.
It is simple, they say: the more you drink, the more people become attractive.
And so that fact stood until a couple of scientists decided they would embark on a more clinical approach and take a hard look at the phenomenon known as beer goggles.
Researchers affiliated to the University of Pittsburgh Palo even came up with an experiment to see if they could dispel the myth. Eighteen pairs of male friends, in their 20s, were brought into a laboratory and were asked to rate the attractiveness of a group of people in a series of photographs and videos.
The participants were told that they might later have an opportunity to meet some of them and were asked who they would most like to interact with.
During the randomised study the men were given cranberry juice cocktails with enough alcohol to make them legally drunk. On other occasions they were given a placebo of straight cranberry juice.
What the researchers found appears to kill the beer goggle theory.
They found that the participants were not drinking the people in those photographs pretty.
They concluded that drinking did instead affect how likely men wanted to interact with people they found attractive. In fact they were more than 1.71 times more likely to select one of their top-four attractive candidates to meet up with than if sober.
Intoxication didn’t make the participants grow more attractive to the individuals in the images. It simply comes down to good old liquid courage, with alcohol enhancing confidence.
Still beer goggles might not be off the hook quite yet. It still gets thrown around in scientific literature.
“The well-known beer goggles effect of alcohol does sometimes appear in the literature but not as consistently as one might expect,” says one of the researchers, Michael Sayette.