1 September 2012

Booze intake influenced by glass shape

by Will Parker

Research subjects drank beer from a curved glass almost twice as fast as from a straight sided glass, but the shape of the glass made no difference when the drinks were non-alcoholic, say Bristol University booze boffins.

The subjects were 160 social drinkers aged 18 to 40 with no history of alcoholism. At one session they were asked to drink either lager or a non-alcoholic soft drink from either a straight-sided glass or a curved beer flute. Researcher Angela Attwood said the participants were almost twice as slow when drinking alcohol from the straight-sided glass compared to the curved glass.

Atwood suggests that the reason for this may be because it is more difficult to accurately judge the halfway point of shaped glasses. As a result, drinkers are less able to gauge how much they have consumed.

To investigate further, Attwood conducted another experiment where the subjects completed a computer task that presented numerous pictures of the two glasses containing varying volumes of liquid. By asking participants to judge whether the glass was more or less than half full, the researchers were able to show that there was greater error in accurately judging the halfway point of the curved glass.

According to Attwood, the degree of this error appeared to be associated with the speed of drinking. That is, the participants who tended to show the greatest error in their halfway judgments tended to show the greatest changes in drinking rate.

"There has been a lot of recent interest in alcohol control strategies. While many people drink alcohol responsibly, it is not difficult to have 'one too many' and become intoxicated. People often talk of 'pacing themselves' when drinking alcohol as a means of controlling levels of drunkenness, and I think the important point to take from our research is that the ability to pace effectively may be compromised when drinking from certain types of glasses," concluded Attwood.

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Source: University of Bristol