Richard G. Petty, MD

Beer Goggles


With Christmas coming, your humble reporter felt it important to share some critically important research from the cutting edge of science.

Beer goggles is a Britishism to describe the infamous phenomenon by which “ugly” people are magically transformed into “beauties” as more alcohol is consumed. An effect that normally only lasts until the following morning. A couple of years ago the BBC ran an article on this common observation with the catchy title, ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder!’

Your humble reporter has – of course – never experienced the phenomenon for himself, but he was nonetheless impressed to hear that even beer goggles has now succumbed before the onslaught of the scientific method.

Researchers at Manchester University report that while beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder (beer-holder?), the amount of alcohol consumed is not the only factor. They have identified some additional factors including the level of light in the bar, pub or club, the drinker’s own eyesight and the room’s smokiness. The physical distance between two people is also a factor.

Just to prove that this is real science, the researchers have generated a smart looking equation:


This is the key to the magic formula:
An = number of units of alcohol consumed
S = smokiness of the room (graded from 0-10, where 0 clear air; 10 extremely smoky)
L = luminance of ‘person of interest’ (candelas per square meter; typically 1 pitch black; 150 as seen in normal room lighting)
Vo = Snellen visual acuity (6/6 normal; 6/12 just meets driving standard)
d = distance from ‘person of interest’ (meters; 0.5 to 3 meters)

You can use the formula to calculate a final score, ranging from less than one – where there is no beer goggle effect – to more than 100. The higher the score, the higher the chance that the esthetically challenged will appear more attractive.

The leader of the research team, Nathan Efron, Professor of Clinical Optometry at the University of Manchester, had this to say: "The beer goggles effect isn’t solely dependent on how much alcohol a person consumes, there are other influencing factors at play too… For example, someone with normal vision, who has consumed five pints of beer and views a person 1.5 meters away in a fairly smoky and poorly lit room, will score 55, which means they would suffer from a moderate beer goggle effect."

But why, one wonders, would alcohol have the effect of making other people more attractive? After all the disinhibitory effects of alcohol can also make people aggressive, and the drinker will likely be less attractive to the people around him. Unless, of course, they are in a similar state. And why should less visual acuity make others more attractive? We could probably construct a model based on evolutionary psychology, but inquiring minds need to know.

Your reporter was left with a question: at a time when everyone in academia is fighting over a dwindling research budget, who on earth funded this research? Then he found the answer: the eye care company Bausch & Lomb PureVision.

But come to think of it, isn’t this the opposite of the result that the company would have wanted?

About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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