Beer goggles and “demand”

A recent study suggested that the idea of beer goggles did not exist. The study stated that men who had been drinking actually rated women lower than men who had not been drinking – the author went from this empirical “fact” to a claim that the idea of beer goggles is false.

Now even if the empirical fact is indeed true, I would be a little more careful before claiming that such a commonly accepted social belief is wrong.

The essence of “beer goggles” (lets stick with the male version) is that men are more willing to sleep with a given woman after drinking beer.

Now, even if men find women less attractive when drunk than they do when they are sober – it does not mean that they are necessarily less willing to sleep with them. Fundamentally, we have to ask how beer influences “how low” a man is willing to go in terms of attractiveness when drunk (we are of course assuming that the supply curve is unchanged 😛 ).

If beer makes men willing to sleep with a significantly lower “attractiveness level” of woman – than it is possible that even if he finds her less attractive he is more likely to sleep with her.

This is still an interesting finding – as it tells us that we don’t find people more attractive when drunk. And in order to have the “beer goggle” phenomenon beer must simply make us more willing to sleep with less attractive people.

Note: The article dodges this issue by defining “beer goggles” as finding people more attractive on an objective scale. But I don’t think that this definition catches the true nature of beer goggles – which is simply slang for saying that you slept with someone when drunk that you wouldn’t have sober …

16 replies
  1. rauparaha
    rauparaha says:

    Haha, this post is to econ blogging what A Double Shot at Love is to dating shows, or what Naked Wild On is to travel shows 😛

    (If you don’t know what I’m talking about then count yourself lucky!)

  2. agnitio
    agnitio says:

    I think Matt’s characterization is a more accurate description of what most men would consider “beer goggles”.

    LOL, Rauparaha has spent far too much time watching the E! channel:P

  3. Dismal Soyanz
    Dismal Soyanz says:

    Alcohol doesn’t change the way in which a person is perceived. This makes sense because those perceptions are the result of various long term factors. Yes, “beer goggles” is about changing preferences but the manner in which those preferences change is not unidimensional. The “objective” measure of someone’s attractiveness is but one dimension. If alcohol reduces inhibitions, then the drinker’s preferences will also be changing.

  4. Brad Taylor
    Brad Taylor says:

    Surely the phrase ‘beer goggles’ suggests changing perceptions rather than preferences. If you ask most people what it means, I’m guessing almost everyone will say it’s women looking better after a few drinks.

    I entirely agree with your characterization of the real reason men are sluttier when drunk, though. Perhaps men don’t want to admit that their judgement changes, so blame it on their visual perception?

  5. Dismal Soyanz
    Dismal Soyanz says:

    My point is that this study shows that the “beer goggles” phenomenon could well be explained by a change in preferences given that perceptions appear to be unchanged.

    I believe that the reduction of inhibitions from alcohol is pretty well documented and proven. Thus after a few beers a guy may well be

    a) more likely to express a previously unvoiced favourable opinion on someone (the barmaid),
    b) more willing to act on that opinion; and
    c) less concerned about the opinion of others.

  6. Tom M
    Tom M says:

    It shouldn’t be forgotten that after a while alcohol does blur vision. Perhaps this results in asymmetrical information.

  7. edmond
    edmond says:

    does this asymmetric information and time inconsistency constitute a market failure or improve efficiency with a market clearing effect?

    I think a full study is needed: until we get more complete data the best we can do is just attribute it all to animal spirits.

  8. Matt Nolan
    Matt Nolan says:


    It is definitely the way I would use beer goggles – I think definitional consistency is just so important when working with a major social issue such as this.

  9. Matt Nolan
    Matt Nolan says:

    @Brad Taylor

    “If you ask most people what it means, I’m guessing almost everyone will say it’s women looking better after a few drinks”

    That is the kicker isn’t it – I would define it as “I would be more willing to sleep with X following alcohol”. Hence the different conclusions between the study and myself.

    The fundamental difference then is how it influences peoples preferences – which in itself is another interesting and important issue.

    “Perhaps men don’t want to admit that their judgement changes, so blame it on their visual perception?”

    Indeed! I think the study proved that on average it would have to be the result of a change in preferences.

  10. Matt Nolan
    Matt Nolan says:

    @Tom M

    Ahhh very true – asymmetric information. Maybe we need people to get an objective rating and wear it around their neck when they go into town to solve this issue …

    Actually – that wouldn’t be in my interest 😛

  11. Matt Nolan
    Matt Nolan says:


    I suspect it leads to a market failure – but I agree that we need a fully funded study.

    I suggest that a university pays us each $100,000 plus expenses to test the impact of alcohol on ourselves

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