Booze sorry now...beer goggles really do exist
BEER goggles – often blamed for illadvised drunken liaisons – really do exist, scientists insist.
They say becoming less picky after drinking can be explained by “alcohol myopia”, which causes people not to focus on the internal features of a face, but instead form a general impression of the whole face and the hair in particular.
The news comes as the nation gets into the swing of the Christmas party season after the gruelling election campaign.
In a study carried out at Portsmouth University, researchers recruited 76 students who were on a night out at the union bar and in various stages of intoxication.
Participants in the group showed breath readings ranging from 0.01 to 0.16 per cent blood alcohol concentration.
The legal limit for driving in the UK is 0.08 per cent so the most inebriated was twice the legal limit for driving.
The students, aged 18 to 24, were asked to study a series of 21 images featuring young male adult faces.
These were then interspersed among a selection of unseen new faces.
Five minutes after viewing the first set of images, participants then had to try to recognise either the full, internal or external regions of the “old” faces. The research revealed that as the amount of drink consumed increased, the students’ recall of internal features – but not external features or full faces – was poorer.
The higher breath concentrations of alcohol were associated with a less accurate memory of internal face regions. Alistair Harvey, senior lecturer at the International Centre for Research in Forensic Psychology at Portsmouth University, led the study.
He said: “Research suggests that when we first view an unfamiliar face we pay more attention to the hair compared to when we look at familiar faces.
“This makes it easier for us to recognise the newly learned face later, from a wide range of different viewing angles.
“This bias towards looking at the external region of new faces still occurs when we are intoxicated.
“But our research suggests that alcohol narrows the focus of attention, making it harder for us to remember the details of internal face features.”
Given the findings that hairstyles can be a main focus for drinkers, revellers hoping to meet someone over the festive period might be advised to direct their pre-night out preparations into creating the perfect hairdo. The study, called
Alcohol Myopia and the Distracting Effects of Hair in Face Recognition, is published in the latest edition of the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
But the findings also have a serious application, the scientists warned.
Alcohol myopia could impact on how reliable witnesses of crime are after consuming alcohol.
Dr Harvey said: “This weakened
‘Alcohol narrows focus on attention’ ‘Drunk witness at risk of mistakes’
ability to remember the eyes, nose and mouth means that drunken witnesses are at greater risk of mistakenly accusing innocent suspects whose hairstyle happens to be similar to that of the true perpetrators.
He said that this “could potentially lead to cases of wrongful imprisonment”.