Booze can be a tricky thing. Sipping a dram of Scotch with your buddies can make for the perfect evening in, while a few too many fiery tequila cocktails at the bar can leave with you a nasty hangover the next morning, if not at least several unknown numbers in your phone and/or a missing sense of dignity.
Some even say that tossing back one too many can give a dude a pair of oft-debated “beer goggles,” in which intoxicated guys (or gals) become interested in someone they’d otherwise not find attractive.
Fun fact: The beer goggles phenomenon may actually be real—except it’s a bit more complicated than a pair of alcohol-tinted glasses. Drunk men don’t necessarily focus on women they otherwise wouldn’t look at, but they are more likely to check out a woman’s body (as opposed to her face), especially if they consider that woman to be unfriendly or unintelligent, according to a new study published in the journal Sex Roles.
In the study, researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln analyzed a group of 49 college-age men (between 21 and 27 years old). Some of the participants drank a mixture of orange juice and grain alcohol (Puke City, population those guys) until they reached the legal level of intoxication, while others drank a “placebo” mixture that smelled and tasted of booze but barely had any liquor in it.
The researchers then used eye-tracking equipment to determine whether the men focused their gaze on the faces, chests, or waists of 80 different college-age women (who had previously been rated on their attractiveness, friendliness, and intelligence) dressed up to go out.
The results? The intoxicated participants spent significantly more time checking out a woman’s body parts, as opposed to her face, than their sober counterparts. And on top of that, when the women weren’t percieved as friendly or intelligent, the drunk guys were more likely to “spend less time looking at faces and more time looking at sexual body parts,” says Sarah Gervais, a co-author on the study.
The researchers stressed, however, that the participants’ responses weren’t based on the actions or actual traits of the women, just their perception of the images. “We need to be clear,” says Abbey Riemer, the lead author on the study, “this is all happening in men’s minds.”