Stein, Tankard, Pint, Boot: Different beer glasses affect drinking speed

As we enter the Labor Day holiday weekend here in the US, many Americans will probably be celebrating with a beer (or two). Before the barbeques start, though, it may be worth considering a recent paper showing that the shape of your beer glass can influence how quickly (and potentially how much) you drink.

The paper, authored by a team from University of Bristol led by psychologist Dr. Angela Attwood, reports that study participants who drank from a straight glass finished their beer 60% more slowly than those drinking from a curved glass. The cause is unknown, but the researchers write that it may be perceptual.

With curved glasses, the subjects estimated the halfway point to be lower than it actually was. The perception of the halfway point of the straight glass was also incorrect, but the discrepancy was less. In other words, the drinkers had to drink more out of the curved glass than the straight glass to get to the perceived halfway mark. If they were pacing themselves, their benchmark for doing so was worse for the curved glass than the straight glass, resulting in overall faster drinking for those using the curved glasses.

This interpretation assumes that the participants were in fact monitoring their drinking, either consciously or subconsciously, based on how much they thought they had left. Such pacing was not shown in the current study, but there are a few additional suggestive pieces of the puzzle: when the participants were given half-filled glasses, or when beer was replaced with soda, they drank from both types of glasses at the same rate, providing support for the perceptual hypothesis.

The researchers did not, however, address the effects of drinking out of a can, bottle, or one of those fancy Belgian chalices, so you may have to do some of your own experiments too.

Citation: Attwood AS, Scott-Samuel NE, Stothart G, Munafò MR (2012) Glass Shape Influences Consumption Rate for Alcoholic Beverages. PLoS ONE 7(8): e43007. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0043007

Image source: darren-johnson on Flickr