Study Says Curved Beer Glasses Make You Drink Faster – I Say Bullshit

Dos Equis Guy

A new study performed by a British “experimental psychologist” at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom suggests that drinking beer out of a curved or fluted glass can make you drink faster than drinking out of a traditional pint glass. I suggest that’s bullshit.

Angela Attwood, the psychologist, and her colleagues gathered up 160 people, consisting of University of Bristol students, faculty and some Joes off the street, to give them free beer and observe their drinking speeds using straight glasses and curved glasses. The test subjects were reportedly all “young, healthy…’social drinkers,’ and not alcoholics.”

Now that sounds scientific, right? I can just picture Ms. Attwood, who I imagine looks like J.K. Rowling in a white lab coat, asking students, coworkers and random people, “Want some free beer? Yes? Wait, you’re not an alcoholic, are you?”

Attwood then broke the participants into groups and got down to business.

From a HuffingtonPost.com report:

“The team reports that whereas the group with straight glasses nursed their 354 milliliters of lager for about 13 minutes, the group with the same amount of beer served in curved glasses finished in less than 8 minutes…However, the researchers observed no differences between people drinking 177 milliliters of beer out of straight versus fluted glasses.”

All of the people in each group drank at the same pace? All of the people with straight glasses finished their drinks in about 13 minutes? And the folks with curved glasses all finished in eight minutes? That sounds very odd, but even if it is true, the finding seems to suggest that all of the people in the groups were looking at each other and trying not to drink faster than anyone else.  And doesn’t the second finding kind of raise doubt about the first one?

“Attwood believes that the reason for the increase in speed is that the halfway point in a curved glass is ambiguous. Social beer drinkers, she says, naturally tend to pace themselves when drinking alcohol, judging their speed by how fast they reach half-full.”

I’ve known a lot of drinkers in my day, some “social,” some anti-social and some plain old socially awkward. Of the ones that paced themselves, I’ve never known any that did so by looking at the halfway point of a pint glass. That’s just silly. Drinkers who are trying to pace themselves keep track of and limit the number of beers they drink, not the number of half beers they consume.

For example, you might decide that you’re not going to have more than two beers, because after two beers you start to feel buzzed, and you have to drive home from the bar.  Even if you don’t set a specific limit on how many beers you plan to drink, you probably still keep loose tabs on how many you’ve had, and you don’t likely think, “Well, shit, I’ve had three and a half beers, and I thought I’d only had two and a half. Fucking curved glass really threw me a curve ball there.”

As a professional journalist, I read a lot of research reports, many of which are laughable, unscientific “studies” or “surveys” designed to push a specific marketing message by skewing findings toward a vendor’s product or service. Some of the questionable studies are simply meant to garner attention and make headlines instead providing any real value or insights. Attwood’s research appears to fall in the latter category.

UBN

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3 thoughts on “Study Says Curved Beer Glasses Make You Drink Faster – I Say Bullshit

  1. Rohan Singh says:

    Before I dissect your entire post, let me first point out the irony of someone complaining about the “unscientific” and “calling bullshit”, while at the same time making anecdotal claims and obviously not even bothering to read the actual paper. This kind of sensational professional amateurism is at the heart of why “science journalism” today is in such poor shape.

    You ask: “All of the people in each group drank at the same pace? All of the people with straight glasses finished their drinks in about 13 minutes? And the folks with curved glasses all finished in eight minutes?”

    By bothering to take a precursory look at the actual data, I see that Attwood’s team not just total drinking time, but also “total number of sips, total sip duration, total interval duration”. I’m guessing you don’t actually want to be bothered by “figures” and “numbers”, since analyzing those would take more work than writing a screed, so here’s a chart from the paper: http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0043007?imageURI=info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0043007.g002

    As you can see, there is actually a range there (that’s what those “I” shapes on the bars mean). There was never a claim that everyone finished the drink at the same time.

    You then state: “Drinkers who are trying to pace themselves keep track of and limit the number of beers they drink, not the number of half beers they consume.” You base this on the fact that “I’ve known a lot of drinkers in my day.”

    Unfortunately, the plural of “anecdote” is not “data”. Being a craft beer guy, I drink a lot of beer, and I do pace myself. I don’t do it on the glass or half-glass, but rather a continual, “how much have I drank so far?” This involves looking at the glass and figuring how much is in it. This would seem to contrary to your bold statement that all drinkers only think about how much they have drank after they finish an entire glass.

    Again, if you’d read the study, you’d have seen that the authors gave some participants half-glasses to start with. They found: “These indicated a beverage × glass interaction effect in the 12 fl oz condition (F [1, 75] = 5.30, p = 0.024, partial η2 = .07), but not the 6 fl oz condition (F [1, 76] = 1.84, p = 0.18, partial η2 = .02).”

    What this means is that curved glasses were drunk faster when they were entirely full, but not when they were filled only halfway. What exactly that means, I’m not sure, but it definitely shows that the halfway mark does mean something.

    Regardless, the actual paper, including the procedure and the detailed results are available: http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0043007.

    I think you’ll find that hand-waving rhetoric isn’t as effective against hard data as it is against the strawman you chose to attack. Unless you can point out actual procedural flaws in the methods described, or unless you are actually accusing the researchers involved of fabricating data, your argument doesn’t seem to have a leg to stand on.

    Next time, look further than the Huffington Post article before deciding to question the validity of actual research.

    • Urban Beer Nerd says:

      Wow. Thanks for that (incredibly long-winded) response. You must have a lot of free time. I, on the other hand, do not. That’s why I’m only going to waste two minutes on you. (How long did it take you to write that comment?)

      You’re right about one thing. I did not read Ms. Attwood’s research. I didn’t read the research because common sense tells me her conclusion is bullshit. I couldn’t care less about the research; I’m riffing on the conclusion.

      Drinking out of curved glasses does not make you drink faster. Being able to see the halfway point of a glass has nothing to do with how fast you drink. If it did, people who drink out of cans would drink ridiculously fast because–holy shit–you can’t see the level of beer at all! And what about those red solo cups? No halfway, no third, no quarter marks.

      You know what else I couldn’t care less about? Your opinion. That’s why I’m not reading your blog; you read mine. This blog is not scientific. It’s not supposed to be. It’s a fucking blog. If you don’t like it, don’t read it.

      Have a nice day.

      UBN

  2. […] “studies.” I’m still amusing by the one that suggests using curved beer glasses makes you drink faster. Shit, studies like these make me drink faster—and more […]

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