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Beer goggles are real, says sober science

Scientists at the University of Bristol in the UK insist that alcohol allows you to find people more attractive. This contradicts some previous research.

He likes him. But does he really like him? College Humor/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

One of the reasons science exists is to reassure us that we are not, in fact, crazy.

Or, rather, to confirm the areas of crazy that squat inside us like pot-addled dropouts.

I am grateful, therefore, to the scientists at the UK's University of Bristol who strove to prove that a troublingly human phenomenon really does exist: beer goggles.

Should you be unfamiliar with this term, it refers to the moment when alcohol allegedly takes over your eyes and sense of judgment and makes you believe that someone of your target sex is a touch more attractive than they will be in the morning.

These scientists fought hard to find volunteers who would drink and then look at pictures of men, women and, for some inebriated reason, landscapes.

The original invitation was to all-comers. The researchers set up in three local pubs and invited everyone to participate "in the name of a (responsible) pint and science."

Naturally, to make this vaguely scientific, some of the responsible pints were overly responsible. They were actually non-alcoholic beverages. (How could the participants not tell? Those things taste like liquified paper.)

The results might make heads spin and eyes glaze: those who drank real alcohol found the pictures more attractive. All of the pictures, Yes, even the landscapes.

Some might conclude that we are but primitive animals, easily manipulated and impressed.

You will, though, be moved by the conclusion of researcher Olivia Maynard, as reported by the Daily Mail: "If alcohol does change perceptions of attractiveness then that could be a factor in the kind of risky behavior you see when people are drunk, such as unprotected sex."

There must surely be few humans of allegedly mature age who haven't, just once in their lives, found someone attractive while beneath the influence and heading under the table.

However, there's an intellectual distinction here. Previous research from the University of Durham, also in the UK, suggested that beer goggles are merely the invention of an addled mind.

These scientists believed that alcohol shuts down the area of the brain that stops us from crossing the road without our clothes on, or telling our bosses they are sniveling nincompoops.

There is a part of the brain, you see, that controls our wreckless impulses. These researchers suggested that alcohol shuts this down rather quickly.

For them, alcohol reduces us to a more base, animalistic set of actions.

This is disturbing. If, at heart, our impulses are merely to satisfy some physical urge without thought for its pleasure level, that covers our existence with a very sad primer.

I would, though, like to offer my own hypothesis. Could it be that alcohol not only frees our impulses to roam wherever they may, but also makes other people more attractive?

It's a little like aspirin being good for headaches, but also apparently helpful in preventing heart attacks.

Many is the human who has found that just a few beers have made them act in not one, but several ways that their friends might have deemed out of character.