INTRODUCTION Studies have long shown that alcohol intoxication affects the way people behave. Similarly, the drug’s effect on sexual activity has more recently been documented by psychologists (MacDononald, 1991). Past research has shown that intoxicated people are more likely to engage in sexual activity that they would have avoided had they been sober. Upon regaining their sobriety, then, people often report being very surprised by the unattractiveness of some of the people whom they believed were beautiful while they were inebriated. Thus, the term “Beer Goggles” was born among college students. “Beer Goggles” obviously are not physical objects, but instead describe a state of intoxication in which alcohol affects perceptions of beauty so that previously held standards of beauty are no longer maintained.
The concept of “Beer Goggles” is based on the popular belief that one of the effects of intoxication is that subjects view others as more attractive than when they are sober. However, research either supporting or contradicting this claim is lacking. Therefore, the hypothesis of this study is that as intoxication increases, so do ratings of the beauty and attractiveness of others. This study will address and examine an area that alcohol-related research has omitted. Similarly, through this research, the accuracy of popular belief about alcohol-related effects will be assessed. Method
METHODParticipants:Sixty-three Georgetown University male students participated in the study.
Materials: A survey was administered which contained four images of white females and four images of landscapes. There were two items for each picture as well as two items at the end that sought information about the subjects’ current state of intoxication.
Procedure: A researcher walked around Georgetown University campus on a Friday night and solicited groups of males to take the survey. After obtaining their consent, the participants completed the survey individually. The two items for each picture asked the subject to rate the beauty and attractiveness of the pictures on a scale from zero to six, with zero being “not attractive/beautiful” and six being “very attractive/beautiful.” The stimuli were acquired from America Online’s Instant Messenger Rate-a Buddy® service. The users of the service had previously rated all pictures between a 5.0 and 6.0 on a ten-point scale. The pictures of the landscapes were obtained from customer submissions to the www.ritzcamera.com website. The pictures of landscapes were included to indicate if the hypothesized increase in the ratings of attractiveness was limited only to males’ perceptions of women. After the participants rated the pictures, they answered the final questions about their state of intoxication. The first item asked the subjects to rate their level of intoxication on a scale of zero to six, representing “not drunk” and “very drunk” respectively. The final question asked the subjects how many drinks they had consumed that night. Their answers could range from zero to more than twelve. The quasi-independent variables in this study were the level of intoxication, which was assessed by the final two questions on the survey and the type of picture presented (person vs. landscapes). The dependent variable was the rating that the subject gave for pictures. The participants who reported being completely sober provided the controlled variable.
RESULTS In order to calculate the mean rating for the pictures, the data from the attractiveness and beauty questions were combined because they were so highly correlated. For the 63 participants, the mean rating for the pictures of the women (these pictures will be regarded throughout the rest of the study as the “persons” variable) was 3.14 and the standard was 1.42. The mean rating for the pictures of the landscapes (these pictures will be referred to as the “landscape” variable for the remainder of this study) was 3.61 and the standard deviation for these results was 1.48. The means were also calculated for each level of intoxication for the “persons” and “landscapes” pictures and are reported in Figure 1 and Figure 2, respectively.
Figures 1 and 2
RESULTS CONTINUEDThere were significant differences between the ratings given for both the person (F=4.41, p<.05) and landscape stimuli (F=13.84, p<0.0025) at lower levels of intoxication and those given at higher levels. The complete ANOVA analyses for persons and scenes are related in Chart 1 and Chart 2, respectively.
Charts 1 and 2
DISCUSSION As hypothesized, a significant difference was found between ratings of persons given at lower levels of intoxication and those given at higher levels of intoxication. However, the same differences were also significant for the landscape stimuli. Thus, part of the hypothesis may be true: perhaps perceptions of attractiveness increase as intoxication increases, but the higher ratings also apply to non-human subjects.There are several factors within the study that may have muted the results. One factor is the range of the scales used to assess beauty. The zero to six scale is not commonly used when rating the beauty and attractiveness of another person. Usually a scale based on ten is used and therefore would have been more appropriate for this study. The result of using a smaller, lower scale may have been “rate inflation,” thus dampening the differences between the ratings of the subjects in the different intoxication groups. Or, perhaps the higher ratings were truly indicative of the beauty and attractiveness of the stimuli. If this is the case, perhaps less attractive stimuli ought to have been used in order to yield a greater difference between the rating of the intoxication levels. Another confound of the study is that the subjects resembled each other. Because such similar stimuli were used, a portion of the population of the participants may not have had a great deal of appreciation for the almost exclusively dark hair and eyes of the stimuli. Therefore, a portion of the participants may not have been given a “fair” chance at assessing beauty. The same may be said of the “landscape” pictures because each one portrayed a majestic, serene, natural scene. These types of pictures are supposed to be highly regarded and thus the ratings given in the “landscape” group as a whole may be inflated. Perhaps it would be more advantageous to use a more diverse selection of environments in the future. A particularly interesting trend that appeared in the results is the decline of the level of ratings at the highest end of the rating spectrum. This decline, when paired with the fact that landscapes were rated higher as intoxication increased, just as the ratings for the “persons” stimuli were, is consistent with observations by Ray and Ksir that with relation the BAC levels: At less than 0.03% the individual is dull and dignified. At 0.05%, he is dashing and debonair. At 0.1% he may become dangerous and devilish. At 0.2% he is likely to be dizzy and disturbing. At 0.25% he may be disgusting and disheveled. At 0.3% he is delirious and disoriented and surely drunk. At 0.35% he is dead drunk. At .06% the chances are that he is dead (Ray and Ksir, 1997).The data in this study reflects the same decline after a certain threshold of alcohol consumption and after that, the “fun,” foolish behavior gives way to more depressed behaviors and mood. Thus, this anecdote may explain the decline after a certain level of intoxication in this study.
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