AIMS: To measure the effect of moderate alcohol consumption on males' and females' attractiveness ratings of unfamiliar male and female faces. PARTICIPANTS: Eighty undergraduate volunteers were used in each of three experiments. DESIGN: Participants' ratings on a 1-7 scale was the dependent variable. A three-factor mixed design was used. For experiments 1 and 2: one within-factor, sex-of-face to be rated (male/female); two between-factors, sex-of-rater (male/female) and alcohol status of rater (0 UK units/1-6 UK units). For experiment 3, the two levels of sex-of-face were replaced by two levels of a non-face object. In experiment 1, the faces were rated for attractiveness; in experiment 2, the faces were rated for distinctiveness and in experiment 3, the non-face objects were rated for attractiveness. SETTING: Quiet, prepared corners of bars and licensed eating areas on a civic university campus. METHOD: For each experiment, 118 full-colour photographic images were presented randomly on a laptop computer screen, each remaining until a rating response was made. FINDINGS: There was a significant alcohol consumption enhancement effect only for attractiveness ratings of opposite-sex faces in experiment 1. This indicates that the opposite-sex enhancement effect is not due simply to alcohol consumption causing the use of higher points of ratings scales, in general. CONCLUSION: Since Agocha & Cooper have shown that the likelihood of intentions to engage in risky sex increases as the facial attractiveness of the potential sexual partner increases, through the opposite-sex enhancement effect we identify a new possible link between risky sex and alcohol consumption.
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