Glass Shape Influences How Fast You Drink Alcohol

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BRISTOL, United Kingdom—New research published in the journal PLoS ONE suggests the speed at which an individual drinks alcohol may be influenced by the shape of the glass the drink is served in. Results reveal people who drink beer from a fluted or shaped glass consume their drink 60% faster compared to those who drink beer from a straight-sided glass.

Researchers at the University of Bristol’s School of Experimental Psychology recruited 160 social drinkers aged 18 to 40 with no history of alcoholism to attend two experimental sessions. 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. Participants were almost twice as slow when drinking alcohol from the straight-sided glass compared to the curved glass. There was no difference in drinking rates from the glasses when the drink was non-alcoholic.

According to the researchers, 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 test the theory, participants attended another session in which they 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. The degree of this error seemed to be associated with the speed of drinking; the participants who tended to show the greatest error in their halfway judgments tended to show the greatest changes in drinking rate.

The speed at which an alcoholic beverage is drunk will influence the level of intoxication experienced, and also the number of drinks consumed in a single drinking session. Therefore, slowing drinking rates is likely to have positive impact for the individual and also at a population level.

“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," the researchers said.

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