'Beer goggle' study wins Ig Nobel award
- 13 September 2013
- From the section Science & Environment
A team of researchers who found that people think they are more attractive when drinking alcohol, have scooped an Ig Nobel prize for their work.
The researchers from France and the US confirmed the "beer goggle effect" also works on oneself.
Ig Nobel awards are a humorous spoof-like version of their more sober cousins, the Nobel prizes.
Winners have 60 seconds to make a speech to avoid being booed off stage by an eight-year-old girl.
Titled "Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder", the team were awarded one of the 10 awards (listed below) at a packed gala ceremony at Harvard University, US.
Other winners included a patent for trapping and ejecting airplane hijackers and a UK team scooped an Ig for observing that a cow is more likely to stand up the longer it has been lying down.
The Peace Prize went to the president and state police of Belarus for making public applause illegal and having arrested a one-armed man for the offence, according to Annals of Improbable Research, who organise the ceremony.
Penile amputations were the focus of the Public Health Prize. In 1983 a team from Thailand recommended how to manage an epidemic of women amputating their husbands, which had occurred in the 1970s.
However, they said their technique was not advised in cases where the penis had been partially eaten by a duck (after amputation). It was common to keep ducks in a traditional Thai home.
Representing archaeology was a study that observed which bones dissolved when swallowing whole a dead shrew.
Brad Bushman of Ohio State University, US, and one of the five co-authors of the alcohol attractiveness study, said he was honoured that his team's work had won an Ig.
In the study, people in a bar were asked how funny, original and attractive they found themselves. The higher their blood alcohol level the more attractive they thought they were.
The same effect was also found for those who only thought they had been drinking alcohol when in fact it was a non-alcoholic placebo drink.
"People have long observed that drunk people think others are more attractive but ours is the first study to find that drinking makes people think they are more attractive themselves," Prof Bushman told the BBC.
"If you become drunk and think you are really attractive it might influence your thoughts and behaviour towards others. It illustrates that in human memory, the link between alcohol and attractiveness is pretty strong."
Judges were also asked to rate how attractive they thought the participants were. The individuals who thought they were more attractive were not necessarily rated thus by judges.
"It was just an illusion in their mind. Although people may think they become more attractive when they become intoxicated, other [sober] people don't think that," added Prof Bushman.
Prize winners tend to see the Ig Nobels as a considerable honour and indeed seven of the 10 winners (one winner died in 2006) attended the ceremony in Cambridge, US, to accept the prizes at their own expense.
Although a light-hearted event, the awards are handed out for work that is for the most part serious research. Prof Bushman said that his study significantly contributed to the existing literature.
And the study about cows standing up or lying down was important to be able to detect health problems early on, say its authors.
"We were surprised by the prize. We thought we did a decent piece of work and did not realise it made other people laugh," lead author Bert Tolkamp from Scotland's Rural College, UK, told BBC News. But he added that anything that promoted interest in science was very welcome.
The full list of 2013 Ig Nobel winners:
Medicine Prize: Masateru Uchiyama, Gi Zhang, Toshihito Hirai, Atsushi Amano, Hisashi Hashuda (Japan), Xiangyuan Jin (China/Japan) and Masanori Niimi (Japan/UK) for assessing the effect of listening to opera on mice heart transplant patients.
Psychology Prize: Laurent Bègue, Oulmann Zerhouni, Baptiste Subra, and Medhi Ourabah, (France), Brad Bushman (USA/UK/, the Netherlands/Poland) for confirming that people who think they are drunk also think they are more attractive.
Joint Prize in Biology and Astronomy: Marie Dacke (Sweden/Australia), Emily Baird, Eric Warrant (Sweden/Australia/Germany], Marcus Byrne (South Africa/UK) and Clarke Scholtz (South Africa), for discovering that when dung beetles get lost, they can navigate their way home by looking at the milky way.
Safety Engineering Prize: The late Gustano Pizzo (US), for inventing an electro-mechanical system to trap airplane hijackers. The system drops a hijacker through trap doors, seals him into a package, then drops the hijacker through the airplane's specially-installed bomb bay doors through which he is parachuted to the ground where police, having been alerted by radio, await his arrival.
Physics Prize: Alberto Minetti (Italy/UK/Denmark/Switzerland), Yuri Ivanenko (Italy/Russia/France), Germana Cappellini, Francesco lacquaniti (Italy) and Nadia Dominici (Italy/Switzerland), for discovering that some people would be physically capable of running across the surface of a pond - if those people and that pond were on the Moon.
Chemistry Prize: Shinsuke Imai, Nobuaki Tsuge, Muneaki Tomotake, Yoshiaki Nagatome, Hidehiko Kumgai (Japan) and Toshiyuki Nagata (Japan/Germany), for discovering that the biochemical process by which onions make people cry is even more complicated than scientists previously realised.
Archaeology Prize: Brian Crandall (US) and Peter Stahl (Canada/US), for observing how the bones of a swallowed dead shrew dissolve inside the human digestive system.
Peace Prize: Alexander Lukashenko, president of Belarus, for making it illegal to applaud in public, and to the Belarus State Police, for arresting a one-armed man for applauding.
Probability Prize: Bert Tolkamp (UK/the Netherlands), Marie Haskell, Fritha Langford. David Roberts, and Colin Morgan (UK), for making two related discoveries: First, that the longer a cow has been lying down, the more likely that cow will soon stand up; and second, that once a cow stands up, you cannot easily predict how soon that cow will lie down again.
Public Health Prize: Kasian Bhanganada, Tu Chayavatana, Chumporn Pongnumkul, Anunt Tonmukayakul, Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn, Krit Komaratal, and Henry Wilde (Thailand), for the medical techniques of penile re-attachment after amputations (often by jealous wives). Techniques which they recommend, except in cases where the amputated penis had been partially eaten by a duck.