If you’re a normal human who has been drunk at least once in their life, you know that 1) drinking is fun, and 2) things look, sound, and feel better when you’re a couple drinks deep — and this includes your perception of other people.
In other words, the woman sitting at the other end of the bar swiftly graduates from a humble “she’s cute, I guess” to “damn, I’d tap that” as you keep throwing back those drinks.
These rose colored glasses are typically called “beer goggles,” but what’s the reason behind this? What happens to our brains when we’re under the influence of alcohol that you suddenly perceive people as more attractive than you usually would?
Simply put, alcohol depresses the cerebral cortex, a.k.a. the most advanced part of the brain, thereby slowing down complex thought processes like thinking, awareness, speech, perception, etc. That’s why you don’t care about anything as much and life is good.
The parts of your brain that deal with sex, however, are a different story. Sexual impulses are controlled mainly by the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), as well as the amygdala, hypothalamus, hippocampus, and pituitary.
The amygdala, hypothalamus, hippocampus, and pituitary aren’t affected by alcohol, so your feelings of desire aren’t dulled at all. Your OFC, on the other hand — which controls mate preference, expectations, and decision making — is slowed down. This means that you want sex, you want it now, and you don’t care too much about things you normally would care about, so a lot of people start looking good enough to sleep with.
Even a recent study from the Edge Hill University research lab in the UK confirmed the legitimacy of beer goggles. The study asked over 120 people who were both sober and intoxicated to complete the simple task of indicating on a computer screen whether the letter “T” was upside-down or not while a series of faces were shown on the screen at the same time.
The sober participants were only distracted from their task when an objectively attractive face was shown on the screen. Drunk participants, on the other hand, turned out to be much more distracted by both attractive and unattractive faces.
“We know that attractive faces can pull attention away from the task at hand, but our research suggests that alcohol has the capacity to lessen this effect; to level the playing field,” lead researcher Dr. Rebecca Monk explained in a statement.
“Previous research into the beer goggles phenomena yielded inconsistent findings and has been largely limited to asking people directly about how attractive they find others,” she added. “By using an indirect measure of attention, our research was able to overcome some of these limitations.
“It’s remarkable that in our study participants were only mildly intoxicated, suggesting that it doesn’t take much alcohol at all for people to ‘put on their beer goggles’.”
Well, that really says something, doesn’t it?