What is it about alcohol that makes us more inclined to romance?
It may have something to do with lowered social inhibitions — in one study, researchers found that people who had been drinking were more likely to help someone who had dropped an object than people who hadn’t been drinking. With lowered social inhibitions, it may be easier to feel a little more confident and “make a move.”
It’s also possible that alcohol impairs our ability to recognize symmetry, an important component of attractiveness — one study found that people who consumed alcohol were less able to recognize asymmetrical shapes. With alcohol, we may be less inclined to notice a love interest’s crooked nose or jagged smile.
Another possibility is that drinking kicks our brain’s reward system into overdrive. Scientists have found that alcohol causes the brain to release high levels of “feel good” endorphins and dopamine, two chemicals that work with the reward pathway to fuel our desire for enjoyable activities including a good meal and — yes — a good lover. Drinking might make us more likely to seek out these pleasurable activities, even if it means lowering our usual standards.
Beer goggles are also likely a psychological effect, at least in part. In American culture, sharing a glass of wine with a lover is hardly uncommon, nor is downing a glass of champagne before a New Year’s kiss. Even with the growing popularity of online dating, bars are still places where people seek out potential mates. Since we associate alcohol with romance, we may be more likely to feel romantic — and view others as romantic — after a couple drinks.
Regardless of the why, beer goggles DO appear to be a real phenomenon. (The Mythbusters, by the way, concluded that the beer goggles myth is “plausible,” since all three participants rated faces as more attractive when they were drunk versus buzzed.) When we’re drunk, we’re less discerning and more likely to make an impulsive romantic decision.
So in the end, when it comes to pursuing a love interest, it might be best to make sure you’re both sober first. It wouldn’t hurt to give those beer goggles a chance to wear off.