Study: We Drink Beer 60% More Slowly When It's in a Straight Glass

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Curved goblets make us drink much more quickly.

2119260290_1043025181_zmain.jpgwickenden/Flickr

PROBLEM: Is there any way to curtail the chugging of a determined binge drinker? This study tested whether subtle psychological cues can succeed where "Dude, slow down" does not.

METHODOLOGY: Oh, college -- that time where you could receive course credit for drinking a beer while watching a nature documentary. One hundred fifty-nine self-identified social drinkers were asked to do just that (although half were given soda, instead), while researchers monitored their drinking speed and behavior. The beverages were presented in either straight or curved 12-oz glasses; which were either half-filled or topped off. In a second experiment, spaced a week apart from the first, they were shown images of the two types of glasses and asked to identify where they thought the midpoint was.

RESULTS: Participants savored their beer at a 60 percent slower rate when they were drinking from a straight glass, taking more sips with longer intervals between each one. But this didn't occur when the glass was only half-full, or when they were drinking a non-alcoholic beverage. In the perception test, the midpoints of both glass were judged to be lower than they actually were, but subjects had a harder time identifying the halfway point of the curved glass.

CONCLUSION: There was a significant observed relationship between glass shape and drinking speed. The researchers posit that this effect may have only occurred with beer because people tend to regulate their behavior more when they're consuming alcohol. Because the curved glasses made it more difficult for them to gauge how much they had drunken, it would follow that the subjects thought they had consumed less than they actually had, and perhaps started drinking at a faster pace in order to "catch up."

IMPLICATIONS: Maybe we can help people pace themselves by serving beer in straight glasses or marking a clear midpoint? Or help them not pace themselves by serving in curved glasses, which no one would ever do, I'm sure.

The full study, "Glass Shape Influences Consumption Rate for Alcoholic Beverages," was published in the journal PloS ONE.

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Lindsay Abrams is an assistant editor at Salon and a former writer and producer for The Atlantic's Health Channel.

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