A research project commissioned by Bausch and Lomb, and headed by Nathan Efron, Professor of Clinical Optometry at the University of Manchester, tried to reduce the “beer goggles effect” down to an equation. No college student is unfamiliar with beer-goggling: that regrettable effect that alcohol and dark rooms have on our ability to judge attractiveness. In fact, a poll (also by B&L) showed that 68% of people had regretted giving their phone number to someone to whom they later realized was not attractive. Is there really a simple equation that explains it all?
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So, what factors are at play here? The distance between the two people, amount of alcohol consumed, ambient light and smokiness and a person’s visual acuity all factor in to the below equation.
An = number of units of alcohol consumed
S = smokiness of the room (graded from 0-10, where 0 clear air; 10 extremely smoky)
L = luminance of ‘person of interest’ (candelas per square metre; typically 1 pitch black; 150 as seen in normal room lighting)
Vo = Snellen visual acuity (6/6 normal; 6/12 just meets driving standard)
d = distance from ‘person of interest’ (metres; 0.5 to 3 metres)
The formula can work out a final score (B), which can range from less than one (where there is no beer goggle effect) – to more than 100 (with a HUGE beer goggle effect). The higher the number, the more attractive an otherwise unattractive person will appear.
Nathan Efron, Professor of Clinical Optometry at the University of Manchester, said: “The beer goggles effect isn’t solely dependent on how much alcohol a person consumes, there are other influencing factors at play too.
“For example, someone with normal vision, who has consumed five pints of beer and views a person 1.5 metres away in a fairly smoky and poorly lit room, will score 55, which means they would suffer from a moderate beer goggle effect.”
Thing is, it doesn’t really take a genius to realize that this study was more done for colloquial PR rather to explain any real psychological or neurological change in perception. I tried to determine if some real paper was associated with the press release, but came up empty handed (although I did find a plethora of papers by this author in regards to contact lens-wearing and eye infections). Its kind of funny (and fun) when embarrassing phenomena are treated with a scientific (contact) lens, however its always kind of irksome when something termed a study never came under the scrutiny of the peer-review process and was solely funded by a corporation. The straight-to-press-release shtick usually raises eyebrows, at the very least.
There isn’t really much to lose or gain by accepting the results, except if Baush and Lomb tried to sell anti-beer-goggle contact lens or something. Which seems unlikely. Couldn’t they have conducted a study in a bar or something: ask how many drinks the person’s had, measure the light/smokiness, and then ask them to rate an average-looking person? Then at least, they’d get to conduct “research” in a bar.