What’s Alcohol Good For? Staying Married.

Winding down towards year end and catching up on the “Study of Studies” section from Atlantic Magazine. It’s a column each issue where they summarize recent academic research on a particular topic. This summer it was about alcohol, called “The Science of Beer Goggles.” Here are some of my favorite blurbs:

  • A version of the classic “trolley problem”—would you push a man in front of a train, killing him in order to save five track workers?—they found that the drunker people got, the more likely they were to say they’d push the man.
  • In one study, researchers offered people 20 euros and gave them a chance to donate some or all of the money to Doctors Without Borders.  Compared with sober subjects, those who’d downed an alcoholic peach drink were significantly less likely to donate.
  • Our appreciation for others also increases after a drink or two. Participants in one study who imbibed a fruity vodka drink found minimally to moderately attractive faces significantly more beautiful than did those who’d consumed an alcohol-free drink. This might be because  we’re less able to distinguish symmetrical faces from asymmetrical ones when we’ve been drinking, and symmetry is known to be an important component of attractiveness.
  • One forthcoming study found that  unhappy couples got along better and were more able to solve conflicts after a few vodka-cranberry drinks.