Getty ImagesBeer goggles are one of those things that definitely feel like they're real.
You get drunk, and you get more gregarious. Everyone seems more attractive. You seem more attractive.
In case you were wondering, the top definition of "beer goggles" on Urban Dictionary reads:
phenomenon in which one's consumption of alcohol makes physically unattractive persons appear beautiful
Experimental psychologists in the United Kingdom decided to test whether beer goggles were a real phenomenon out in the wild.
To do so, they went to pubs in Bristol and had patrons rate how attractive people were in photos on a tablet.
But when they plotted attractiveness ratings with how drunk the participants were, they found no connection. It turns out that beer goggles may not be real after all.
You can see their results in this chart from the study, which was published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism in August 2015 (to the right = more drunk):
The researchers measured drunkenness levels using Breath Alcohol Concentration, which is what you get when you breathalyze someone.
For fun, I converted this to Blood Alcohol Content (aka Blood Alcohol Concentration), which is a more familiar measurement. The participant who had the highest BrAC had a BAC level of about 0.18. For context, the legal limit for getting a DUI in the US is 0.08. (The authors of the paper did concede that it's possible they might have observed an effect if more of their participants had been on the drunker side of the scale.)
The researchers also looked for evidence of what they called the "closing-time effect," where people simply seem more attractive because it's almost time for the bar to close, not because of alcohol. They didn't find evidence for this phenomenon either.
A "beer goggles" effect has been observed in previous studies, but those were conducted in a lab — a somewhat artificial setting — not a pub. The pub study also had the largest sample size (311 revelers) of any such study.
Almost everyone in this study said that they enjoyed participating, and 97% thought it was interesting.
And why wouldn't they? They were drinking and judging people's attractiveness in the name of science.