French researchers find alcohol’s self regard boosting properties

French researchers have confirmed the folklore that a glass in your hand will make you feel sexier, smarter and funnier, even when others disagree.

Psychologists led by Laurent Begue at the Pierre-Mendes France University in the south-eastern city of Grenoble carried out an experiment. In the first stage, 19 drinkers, two-thirds of them men, were asked to assess their attractiveness on a scale of one to seven. Their alcohol levels were measured by a breath analyzer, and as expected, the higher the amount of alcohol that had been drunk, the rosier the self-assessment.

In the second phase, 94 men were invited to taste-test a new fruit cocktail on behalf of a research firm that was in fact a bogus company set up for the purposes of the experiment. They were told that half of the volunteers would be given an alcoholic version of the cocktail and the others would be given a non-alcoholic version. No one knew which was which.

They were then asked to write and deliver a filmed message that was supposed to be used in advertisements for the new “brand”. Each volunteer was asked to watch his film and rate his own performance for attractiveness, brightness, originality and humour. Their alcohol concentrations were measured - the levels ranged from zero to twice the legal drink-driving limit.

Results showed that those who believed they had drunk alcohol gave themselves high self-assessments, regardless of whether they had taken any alcohol or not. And those who had believed they had not drunk any alcohol gave themselves a low assessment, even when there had been a hefty shot of pure alcohol in their drink. Authors conclude that there is a cultural phenomenon called “alcohol-related expectancy” by which one believes that a drink will boost one's own attractiveness. “Our study shows that the mere fact of believing that you have drunk alcohol makes you feel more attractive,” Begue said. “The alcohol dose has no effect in itself.”

“The concept of alcohol is linked to social lubrification, to making you feel at ease with others,” Begue said. The downside, of course, is others do not see the individual as such. In Begue's experiment, a panel of independent judges later watched the filmed presentations. Many gave a low attractiveness rating to the men who, at the time, had believed themselves to be suave. Previous research has established that other people become more attractive the more you drink - a tendency popularly known as “wearing beer goggles”.

The study is due to be published shortly in British Journal of Psychology.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


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