The scene: It’s St. Patrick’s Day. You aren’t generally one to get all caught up in green beer and Shamrock Shakes, but some colleagues pressure you into joining them at your local pub right after work to celebrate. Why not? The Big Bang Theory is a re-run, anyway.
You plan on only quaffing a pint or two. But before you know it, you’re on Guinness number four (or is it five?) and you’re feeling all happy and swimmy. When Great Big Sea songs start to sound awesome, you realize that you’re past the point of no return.
You meet a girl or guy! The girl or guy is extremely attractive! The girl or guy can’t keep his/her hands off of you – you are so lucky! The last thing you remember is leaving the pub with the girl or guy, arms slung around each other, laughing and singing “The Night Pat Murphy Died” at the top of your lungs. People are staring at you in utter admiration because you are the most fun person in the world and you’re leaving with a certified hottie.
The next morning, you wake up with a splitting headache. Lying next to you is not the hottie that you remember from last night, but instead, someone who more closely resembles a leprechaun.
“Wearing beer goggles” is a euphemism for the phenomenon wherein potential sex partners appear far attractive than they actually are after a few too many drinks.
We asked Dr. Cameron Barr, a physician at the Boyle McCauley Health Centre in Edmonton, to give us a scientific explanation as to why our brains perceive a stronger attraction to those to whom we would normally not be attracted to when sober.
“Alcohol depresses brain function,” he explains. “The most complex functions are the first to be obviously affected. Your frontal lobes control ‘executive function,’ which is a fancy way of saying ‘planning skills.’ Part of that includes initiating appropriate actions and inhibiting inappropriate actions. You see where I’m going here – as you drink, alcohol shuts down the part of your brain which keeps you inhibited and under control, which is why after six margaritas you’re dancing on the table.”
Dr. Barr says that this disinhibition is what is responsible for beer goggles.
“You don’t have the executive function to tell you that the guy/girl you’re making out with is way too ugly/stupid/hairy/steroid-ridden to be appropriate for your normal sexual preference. It’s not so much that you consider the object of your affections more attractive, it’s just your brain’s pathetic attempt to rationalize your highly inappropriate and disinhibited behaviour.”
But there could be more to it than just the brain’s way of rationalizing of bad decision-making. Researchers from St. Andrews and Glasgow Universities found that alcohol can boost activity in the nucleus accumbens – the part of your brain that determines attractiveness. The nucleus accumbens has been known as the brain’s “pleasure centre” since James Olds and Peter Milner performed their rat-and-lever experiments of the 1950s, so it makes sense that alcohol and sex (both rewards and potential addictions) would intermingle there.
Being a doctor, Dr. Cameron Barr would like to warn everyone that alcohol is not all fun and games and beer goggles.
“If you keep drinking (past the beer goggles stage), more and more basic parts of your brain get shut down, including eventually the part of your brain which controls breathing. This is obviously a bad thing. Alcohol also induces vomiting, which in combination with the impaired motor function makes you more likely to choke to death. This is why you probably shouldn’t drink too much”¦along with the syphilis you might catch from your poorly selected partner. Don’t get so drunk that you forget to use a condom!”
Sexy Typewriter blogs about her dating failures – online and otherwise – at Sexytypewriter.com.