"Don't the Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time," the country and western song asks. Yes, says a University of Virginia psychologist, who researched the question in a number of Charlottesville-area bars. James W. Pennebaker sent teams of graduate students into different bars at 9 p.m., 10:30 and midnight (12:30 a.m. was closing time), and, taking a tip from the song -- "If I could rate them on a scale from 1 to 10, Looking for a 9 but an 8 would fit right in . . ." -- asked the people in the bar to rate the members of the opposite sex on a scale of 1 to 10. The students picked people who were not talking to members of the opposite sex and were not drunk. And to try to get a standard which to measure the the scores, they asded people to rate members of the same sex on the same scale. "Analyses of the 9 p.m., 10:30 p.m. and midnight ratings," Pennebaker writes in an article in Psychology Today summarizing his findings, "confirmed (the song's) observation. The women did indeed get prettier, as far as the men were concerned, near closing time; and so, in the women's eyes, did the men." Pennebaker suggests two theories that might explain the phenomenon. The first, known as reactance theory, works this way: "If you feel your freedom to choose or act is being threatened, you react by liking the threatened option or options more than before. In the bars we studied, the freedom of each person to meet someone else was threatened by the imminence of closing time." The second possibility, dissonance theory, goes this way: "People feel uncomfortable if there is a discrepancy between two or more attitudes that they cherish. In such cases, they attempt to reduce dissonance as soon as possible by making their attidudes more consistent. "In our experiment, if a man or woman in a bar expects to meet and leave with someone, it is dissonant to consider the likelihood of of unattractive partner. The best way to reduce the discomfort is to increase the perceived attractiveness of the prospects . . ."