December 8th, 2014
Do like Don Draper, and have that Mad Men martini lunch before entering a brainstorming session. New research shows that alcohol benefits your creativity.
Psychologists at the University of Illinois tested forty young men. Half were given enough vodka to have a blood alcohol level above 0.07, the others stayed sober. Then, all participants were asked to complete a creative problem solving test, which included seeing a group of words and finding a fourth word that would fit with the previous words. For instance, they had to come up with a word that goes with the following: blue, cottage, Swiss.
Men with a blood alcohol level above 0.07 – which is equal to two glasses of beer – performed significantly better on the test than their sober counterparts. They solved about 40 percent more tasks, and answered the questions on average in 12 seconds instead of 15.5 seconds. Both groups had comparable results on a similar exam before the alcohol consumption began.
According to the researchers, alcohol may enhance creative problem solving by reducing the mind’s working memory capacity, which is the ability to concentrate on something in particular. “Working memory capacity is considered the ability to control one’s attention,” says co-author Dr. Jennifer Wiley, a cognitive psychologist. “It’s the ability to remember one thing while you’re thinking about something else.”
It seems that being too focused can blind a person to novel possibilities and a broader, more flexible state of attention may be helpful for creative solutions to emerge. “We have this assumption, that being able to focus on one part of a problem or having a lot of expertise is better for problem solving,” says Wiley. “But that’s not necessarily true. Innovation may happen when people are not so focused. Sometimes it’s good to be distracted.”
So blue, cottage, Swiss .. what was the fourth word you came up with? If you thought of the word “cheese,” you’re probably drunk.
Jarosz, A., Colflesh, G., & Wiley, J. (2012). Uncorking the muse: Alcohol intoxication facilitates creative problem solving Consciousness and Cognition, 21 (1), 487-493 DOI: 10.1016/j.concog.2012.01.002
Motor Functioning and Alcohol Dependence
Wilde, B. de; Dom, G.; Hulstijn, W.; Sabbe, B.G.C.C.
Addiction research centres and the nurturing of creativity: The Swiss Institute for the Prevention of Alcohol and Drug Problems. Past, present and future
Kuntsche, E.N.; Maffli, E.; Kuntsche, S.; Delgrande Jordan, M.
Photo via Daily Mail