Sunday, September 22, 2013

The desire to feel good about yourself - the real source of beer goggles

Most people read this and just think it is funny.  Of course it is, don't get me wrong.  But there is a lot more going on that is worth talking about.  The IgNobels are often like this.

The study refers to "reverse beer goggles."  The traditional meaning of beer goggles is that when you are drunk, the people around you look more attractive and you think you look more attractive too.  The alcohol dulls your senses and so you don't notice flaws.  The top-down processing comes in because in theory the dulling could make people look better or look worse.  But in practice, people look better because we prefer it that way.  We want to think of ourselves as attractive.  And we prefer the people around us to be attractive too.  Even in the most general sense, we prefer being in the presence of more attractive people.  If we are hanging out with them, then it implies we are attractive too.  Even if it is just hanging out in the same bar or attending the same party. 

We want to feel good about ourselves and the alcohol gives us the sanction to do it. We have an unconscious excuse to fool ourselves, misjudge ourselves and others, and feel very attractive.

And it is this last piece that makes the IgNobel research on reverse beer goggles interesting.  We blame the phenomenon on the alcohol.  But it is really the desire to feel good about yourself using alcohol as an excuse.  In the study, people who thought they had been drinking alcohol still got beer goggles, even when the drinks were just juice with the scent of alcohol spritzed on top so they couldn't tell.  They rated their own attractiveness higher after drinking fake alcoholic drinks. The study didn't look at ratings of other people, but I am sure this would occur too.