Chicago (IL) - It's the oldest excuse in the book, and apparently there's some truth in it - "beer goggles" do indeed lead men to think women are more attractive, at least when they're adult and wearing lots of makeup.
But being tanked up is no excuse for thinking underage girls are older than they actually are, according to research from the University of Leicester.
Professor Vince Egan of the university's School of Psychology and Giray Cordan of the University of Exeter found that while young women are typically perceived as being older than they actually are, alcohol has nothing to do with it.
The finding could have important implications for cases of unlawful sex with a minor, where men routinely claim that being drunk made it harder for them to guess a girl's age.
"It's the sort of thin excuse that men use, and if something goes to a jury there's a lay perception that drink makes it harder to assess age," professor Egan told TG Daily. "In Australia, it's routinely used as an excuse. Perhaps this will stop people using this sort of distorted argument."
The researchers surveyed 240 people in bars and cafes and asked them to rate attractiveness of underage and mature females with and without makeup. Ten female faces were produced graphically using custom-developed software to decrease and increase age, representing sexually immature and mature faces.
The study found that the attractiveness ratings of minors were not affected by alcohol or make-up. Rather worryingly, perhaps, both men and women found minors more attractive than sexually mature faces. But while alcohol really did make older faces with lots of make-up appear more attractive, it had no effect on how old men thought women were.
"We found that while alcohol consumption significantly inflated attractiveness ratings for participants looking at sexually mature faces with high levels of make-up, greater alcohol consumption itself did not lead to overestimation of age," said professor Egan. "Consumed alcohol had no effect on men estimating the age of either mature or immature faces."
The researchers added that, on average, the participants overestimated the ages of the faces they saw – in line with previous research, which revealed an overestimation of age by 2.5 years.
The study also concluded that there are plenty of cues as to a person’s age - for example build and voice - so that men are perfectly capable of inferring whether someone is underage if they so choose.
The research was conducted in pubs, and professor Egan plans next to hit the nightclubs to see whether the more restricted lighting conditions make a difference.
The research is due to be published in the British Journal of Psychology in June.