‘Beer goggles’ don’t make men overestimate women’s ages: Study

April 20th, 2009 - 1:40 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Apr 20 (ANI): “Beer goggles” should not become an excuse for men getting a woman’s age wrong, and indulging in sex with underage girls, according to a study.

Scientists first identified the idea of “beer goggles” in the early 1990s when it was dubbed “alcohol myopia”, which meant that most men overestimated women’s ages after getting drunk.

But, University of Leicester researchers have revealed that men tend to overrate a women’s age regardless if they are drunk or not.

In the study, the researchers showed digitally-altered images of females meant to be 13, 17 or 20 to 240 people, half of whom had been drinking and found that all of them misconstrued the women’s age.

But one expert said the study showed young girls wearing make-up could mislead observers about age, even when they were stone cold sober.

And thus, scientists have now said that the results indicate that men who have sex with underage girls should not be able to use alcohol as a defence.

Men accused of having unlawful sex with a minor sometimes claim they were not aware that the girl was underage.

But, Dr Vincent Egan, who led the study, said he had come across a number of cases where men had used this defence.

Thus, he investigated how people responded to images of women at different ages in the study, which involved 120 sober men and women, and 120 who were drinking in pubs and were in the age group of 18 to 70 years.

The researchers also measured the blood alcohol levels of drinkers-a third of whom could be classed as drunk.They then took a picture of a 17-year-old and digitally manipulated it to show how the girl would look aged 13 and 20.

Some of the photos of the 17-year-olds were also treated to look as if they were wearing make-up.

And contrary to the “beer goggles” theory, they found no difference in age estimates between drinkers and non-drinkers- there was a consistent overestimation of the women’s ages. “Even at considerable levels of drunkenness, males are not disproportionately impaired in estimating the age of made-up immature female faces,” the BBC quoted Egan as saying.

He added: “The notion of ‘beer goggles’ is therefore irrelevant, and it might be there’s a pre-existing bias rather than having any links to drink.”

The only strong effect the team found was people assessing made-up faces as older, but they said that was also consistent between drinkers and non-drinkers.

Egan said the findings might mean juries and courts challenged the argument used by some defence solicitors that alcohol can affect judgement in underage sex cases.

The study is published in the British Journal of Psychology. (ANI)

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