Good news, drinkers: Science has figured out why you got so drunk at last weekend's bachelor party that you had to be pried off the bar with a broom handle. It was your beer glass's fault, dummy!
No, seriously. Recent studies suggest that the shape of a beverage container can affect how quickly you drink, either accelerating or slowing consumption of everything from alcoholic drinks to sodas.
A couple years ago, researchers at the University of Bristol recruited 160 adults and split them into two groups, giving each group a selection of beer or soft drinks. The only difference between the groups was the type of glass they were given; half drank from glasses marked with lines for one-quarter, half, and three-quarters full. The other group was given the same glasses, but without the measurement lines.
Wouldn't you know it? Participants drank at a more measured pace from the lined glasses—about one minute slower per beer. Researchers theorized that the presence of volumetric information may subconsciously discourage people from drinking too fast.
But they suspected that there's another factor at play: the shape of the glass.
To test this hypothesis, researchers asked participants to complete a computer test that assessed subjects' ability to judge the volume midpoint of a liquid in two glass silhouettes—one with curved sides, the other with straight sides. As it turned out, the participants were far better at judging the volume midpoint of the straight-sided glassware.
In the third and final part of the study, researchers brought subjects to three different bars in two sessions, providing half of the participants with beer in straight-sided glasses and half with beer in curved glasses. They then recorded how much beer each group consumed. In the final analysis, participants drinking from straight-sided glasses took about 60% longer to finish their beer than curved glass drinkers.
The jury is still out on the study's broad applicability, since it surveyed a relatively small group of subjects and only used a few pubs, but it raises interesting questions nonetheless. Are shorter, wider glasses more deceptive than tall skinny ones? Are flared pub glasses easier to judge than curved tulip glasses? Help us out here, science!
What does this mean for you? If you find yourself overindulging, try serving yourself beer in a straight-sided glass. Maybe even draw in some volume lines with a Sharpie. What could it possibly hurt?