In the researchers’ defense, there is surprisingly little empirical data on the effects of drinking beer on adults’ sexual arousal or emotional social processes. To their detriment, however, that fact isn’t going to stop a lot of people from filing this under the “why did you need a study?” category.
The study used 60 healthy-aged adults—between the ages of 18 and 50—split evenly between men and women. Thirty were given enough beer to raise their blood alcohol level to around 0.4 g/L, and the other 30 were given non-alcoholic beer. They were then put through a facial recognition test, empathy test, and sexual arousal test. Once completed, the two groups were switched and the whole thing was repeated.
The results, such as they were, indicated that drinking beer helped people see happy faces faster, and increased the desire to be with others in a happy social situation. These effects were greater in men, and in those who had previously shown social inhibition (though how this was tested was not mentioned). Alcohol also made it easier for participants, especially the women, to view sexually explicit images—though sexual arousal did not appear affected.
Translation: the research found that beer can be a social lubricant, but not necessarily one that increased arousal. Incidentally, the levels of the hormone oxytocin (the “cuddling hormone”) were also measured, and were found not to be influenced by the effects of alcohol.
Setting aside the seemingly obvious nature of the results, the standard caveats apply to the findings. A small sample size is always an issue, and it is also worth pointing out that the effects of alcohol can change depending on whether the blood alcohol level is rising or decreasing.
Still, at least the participants got to say they drank beer for science!
“Study measures changes in psychosocial attitudes after beer drinking,” Alpha Galileo web site, September 18, 2016; http://www.alphagalileo.org/ViewItem.aspx?ItemId=167977&CultureCode=en, last accessed September 20, 2016.