Whereas meta-analytic reviews indicate that alcohol consumption enhances mood and sexual arousal (Hull & Bond, 1986),


‘Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder’: People who think they are drunk also think they are attractive

Laurent Bègue1∗, Brad J. Bushman2,3, Oulmann Zerhouni1, Baptiste Subra4 and Medhi Ourabah5 1University of Grenoble 2, France 2The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA 3VU University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands 4University of Paris Descartes, France 5University of Paris 8, Saint-Denis, France

This research examines the role of alcohol consumption on self-perceived attractiveness. Study 1, carried out in a barroom (N = 19), showed that the more alcoholic drinks customers consumed, the more attractive they thought they were. In Study 2, 94 non- student participants in a bogus taste-test study were given either an alcoholic beverage (target BAL [blood alcohol level] = 0.10 g/100 ml) or a non-alcoholic beverage, with half of each group believing they had consumed alcohol and half believing they had not (balanced placebo design). After consuming beverages, they delivered a speech and rated how attractive, bright, original, and funny they thought they were. The speeches were videotaped and rated by 22 independent judges. Results showed that participants who thought they had consumed alcohol gave themselves more positive self-evaluations. However, ratings from independent judges showed that this boost in self-evaluation was unrelated to actual performance.

‘Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder’ —Kinky Friedman

Alcohol has many consequences on social perception and relationships. After a drink, intoxicated people see members of the opposite sex through ‘beer goggles’, which makes them look especially attractive (Jones, Jones, Thomas, & Piper, 2003; Lyvers, Cholakians, Puorro, & Sundram, 2011; Neave, Tsang, & Heather, 2008). But alcohol can also influence self-perceptions. Previous research on alcohol and self-awareness has found that alcohol reduces self-awareness by inhibiting self-relevant encoding processes (Hull, Levenson, Young, & Sher, 1983). The purpose of the present research is to test the hypothesis

∗Correspondence should be addressed to Laurent Bègue, University of Grenoble 2, LIP, 1251, Av. Centrale, BP47, 38040 Grenoble, France (e-mail: laurent.begue@upmf-grenoble.fr).


British Journal of Psychology (2013), 104, 225–234

© 201 The British Psychological Society




that alcohol consumption increases self-perceived attractiveness. Whereas meta-analytic reviews indicate that alcohol consumption enhances mood and sexual arousal (Hull & Bond, 1986), the link between alcohol consumption and self-perceived attractiveness remains to be clarified and theoretically developed.

In order to understand the link between alcohol and self-processes, we relied on the dual-process model of alcohol-related behaviour (Moss & Albery, 2009; see also Moss & Albery, 2010; Wiers & Stacy, 2010). This model suggests that although alcohol consumption disrupts cognitive controlled processes, the mind may still become ‘intoxicated’ even in the absence of alcohol consumption (Moss & Albery, 2009). For example, when people believe that they are intoxicated, they behave more aggressively (Bègue et al., 2009), and show more sexually disinhibited behaviours (Crowe & Georges, 1989). Various studies indicate that the effects of alcohol on human cognition and behaviour should distinguish pharmacological and social psychological consequences of alcohol consumption. In the field of sexual arousal, for example, a meta-analytic review indicated that alcohol consumption had a non-significant effect on sexual arousal, whereas the mere expectation of drinking alcohol significantly increased sexual arousal (Hull & Bond, 1986). From this perspective, behaviours that are disinhibited after drinking a placebo can be understood as a consequence of the activation of alcohol- related concepts in memory. In one study, the mere subliminal activation of alcohol- related concepts caused men to rate the faces of women as more sexually attractive (Friedman, McCarty, Forster, & Denzler, 2005).

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