What drives people to drink alcohol? Many factors play a role in this question. One of these factors involves the perception of physical attractiveness. A recently published meta-analysis combined all available research on the role of alcohol consumption in perceived attractiveness of others. The results, published in the scientific journal Addiction, show that alcohol consumption may have a small effect of increasing perceived attractiveness of people of the opposite sex.
What is already known? Previous research has already shown that a person who has consumed a moderate amount of alcohol is perceived as more attractive by others2. However, how others are perceived when consuming or not consuming alcohol is still under discussion. Some researchers argue that alcohol consumption enhances the perception of physical attractiveness, while others do not agree.
What does this study add? The current study1is the first meta-analysis to combine all studies on alcohol’s relation to the perception of others’ physical attractiveness.
Alcohol consumption influences perceived attractiveness
This meta-analysis takes into account sixteen studies, including a total of 1,800 cases. Overall, individuals who consume alcohol -compared to those who don’t -perceive others as more attractive. However, the difference is small. When focusing on the attractiveness of the opposite sex only, again, alcohol-consuming persons perceive others as more attractive. The consumption of alcohol does not affect the perceived attractiveness of persons of the same sex.
Factors driving alcohol consumption
To tackle the problem of alcohol misuse, it is important to understand what factors drive the consumption of alcohol. As alcohol is often consumed in a social setting, it is suggested that the enhanced social experiences play a role in driving people to consume alcohol1. Increased communication3and greater group bonding4are examples of this enhanced social experience. Another social aspect that might play a role in motivating drinking involves the perception of physical attractiveness.
- The meta-analysis took into account the risks for several types of biases of all included studies.
- Included studies differ in methodology. For example, the amount of alcohol consumed differed between studies and some studies were executed in lab setting, while others were in real-life setting.
- Bowdring, M. A., & Sayette, M. A. (2018). Perception of Physical Attractiveness When Consuming and Not Consuming Alcohol: A Meta‐Analysis. Addiction.
- Van Den Abbeele, J., Penton-Voak, I. S., Attwood, A. S., Stephen, I. D., & Munafò, M. R. (2015). Increased facial attractiveness following moderate, but not high, alcohol consumption. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 50(3), 296-301.
- Lindfors, B., & Lindman, R. (1987). Alcohol and previous acquaintance: Mood and social interactions in small groups. Scandinavian journal of psychology, 28(3), 211-219.
- Sayette, M. A., Creswell, K. G., Dimoff, J. D., Fairbairn, C. E., Cohn, J. F., Heckman, B. W., … & Moreland, R. L. (2012). Alcohol and group formation: A multimodal investigation of the effects of alcohol on emotion and social bonding. Psychological science, 23(8), 869-878.