Chapter 1 – First Impression Post: Do Beer Goggles Really Exist?

The popular TV series “MythBusters” is known for designing tests to determine whether or not a myth can be plausible or debunked. The hypothesis for this particular experiment was whether or not drunkenness has a role in people’s perception of the attractiveness of others. The group had three participants undergoing the transition between sober, tipsy, and drunk. Their objective was to rate photos of strangers on a scale from one to ten, and later analyze the scores of each participant.

The three participants in the experiment (being the independent variables, as they altered their own perceptions through the consumption of alcohol) found themselves rating their samples as more attractive while drunk. Though the concept of beer goggles was decided to be plausible, there were several lurking variables in the experiment. There were only three participants, resulting in a small pool of data to analyze. Provided with a larger sample of participants, the experiment could have yielded varying results. Likewise, the selection of photos the participants rated consisted of different people each time. Though the folks in the photos were said to be aligned with the attractiveness of the people in the previous pictures, there still remains the issue of personal preference from the participants. The female participant even asks if the people in the second batch of photos are less attractive than the first. There is not a clear-cut solution to this issue, unless the photos used in the experiment were the same each time they rated them.

There are several other issues with way the experiment is designed. The participants were all white and cisgendered, and likely have similar cultural values regarding looks. If “MythBusters” had implemented diversity among the participants in this experiment, the results would have provided a more fair set of data and removed the element of undercoverage. Additionally, by including two data sets from heterosexual males and one from a straight female, the experiment lacks perspective from the LGBT community. The “beer goggles” were not tested to see if they improve the attractiveness of all people, as they only comment on the appearance of their opposite gender. If they included photos of both genders, they could assess that as well.

Using a one to ten rating system on the photos allowed the three participants to use their own judgement while measuring the attractiveness of the person in the photo. As a result, each person had their own set scale on standards of beauty from the start. There was not a solid definition of attractiveness defined prior to the experiment and thus forced the majority of the process to be based on opinion. Walking into the experiment knowing the objective could have influenced them to rate the final group higher than the previous batches.

Another crucial flaw in the experiment is each person metabolizes and reacts to alcohol differently. It was clear the female participant was more drunk than her male counterparts by the third round of rating photos, as she did not remember her scores from the previous times. The results were relatively unclear, yet the participant with the best data sample to prove the concept of beer goggles automatically claimed the myth was plausible. The other two did not seem sold on the idea, but still went along with the first person’s analysis of the data.

In conclusion, the experiment was poorly designed, despite a reasonable hypothesis. Confirming the existence of beer goggles requires a larger pool of data, repeatable results, and the use of the same photos each time. They could have spaced the test out over the course of three sessions instead of doing it consecutively to ensure the results were fair. This experiment was created based upon response bias, and will naturally yield faulty data. There was a clear increase in the three samples by the last test, yet the experiment relied too heavily on opinion for the testing to be a fair assessment of all inebriated people.

One thought on “Chapter 1 – First Impression Post: Do Beer Goggles Really Exist?

  1. Hi Kaity!
    Your observations are incredibly insightful and perceptive.
    We agree on a lot of the same weaknesses. Three participants is far too small of a sample size to make any real conclusions from, and the confusion as to who exactly rated the pictures as equally attractive takes away from the impact of the results. There are so many possible differences in what some find attractive and others do not, that to not be clear with the extent of the inter-rater reliability makes the conclusion of the study mean a lot less.

    Your observation of the lack of diversity is also very insightful and important. To look at only cisgendered and heterosexual individuals excludes a portion of the population, thus making their external validity weaker. It also only continues the heteronomativity seen in the majority of research.

    Emily

    Like

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