The shape of the glass may influence how rapidly we consume an alcoholic drink, researchers from the University of Bristol reported in the journal PLoS ONE. The authors believe that their findings could help towards reducing the prevalence of drunkenness which has become a progressively bigger problem in society today.
Dr Angela Attwood and team gathered and analyzed data on 160 social drinkers. None of them had any history of alcoholism; they were aged from 18 to 40 years and were asked to attend two experimental sessions.
Session 1 – the participants were given drinks in either:
- Straight-sided glasses – with alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages
- Curved “beer flutes” – with alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks
Alcoholic drink consumption was nearly twice as fast in the curved glass session, compared to the straight glass session. However, drinking speeds of non-alcoholic beverages were the same, regardless of what type of glass was used.
Possibly, because it is much harder to know when you are half-way through your drink in a curved glass compared to a straight one, people drink more rapidly from curved glasses, the authors suggested. However, why there was no difference in soft-drink consumption rates could not be explained.
Session 2 – the researchers wanted to determine how accurate people’s perceptions of how much had been consumed so far was, without actually drinking any alcohol when they guess. The participants were asked to look at computer images of alcoholic drinks in straight and curved glasses with different volumes of liquid inside them. They were asked a simple question in each picture “Is the glass less or more than half full?” It would then be possible to gauge their visual accuracy more carefully.
They found that people were considerably more inaccurate when looking at drinks in curved glasses.
There was also an association between the degree of error and speed of drinking when using the curved glass. Those who made the greatest mistakes tended to be the ones who drank the fastest from the curved glasses.
People’s speed of drinking will influence how rapidly they get drunk, as well as how many alcoholic beverages they consume in one drinking session. Therefore, if drinking rates can be slowed down, there may be significant benefits for individuals and society as a whole, the authors wrote.
Dr Attwood wrote:
“Due to the personal and societal harms associated with heavy bouts of drinking, 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. Because of the negative effects alcohol has on decision making and control of behavior, this opens us up to a number of risks.
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.”
The more cynical among us may wonder whether the drinks industry might use this data to replace straight glasses with curved ones in order to achieve greater sales.
Written by Christian Nordqvist