Think Booze Is Your Muse? Scientists Think You're Right

Scientists speculate that alcohol could help us fixate less, move past creative blocks
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 9, 2017 10:30 AM CDT

(Newser) – People who claim to be more creative after a pint may be onto something after all, according to researchers studying the age-old assumption. A team at the University of Graz in Austria reports in the journal Consciousness and Cognition that among the 132 young adults they studied, the ones who drank a beer performed better on experiments testing creativity. The team used two tests that measure creativity, per Pacific Standard. In one, participants tried to come up with a word to link three seemingly unrelated words, ie, cheese to link cake, blue, and cottage. They did this 10 times. In the other, they had 2.5 minutes to list as many creative uses for everyday objects as possible, say a shoe or umbrella. Then, half the participants had a beer (men had a pint, women had 12 ounces, for a blood alcohol content of about 0.03) and half had a placebo before taking the tests again.

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Those who imbibed scored as much as 40% better on the first test, though no real difference was seen on the second. The team speculates that alcohol could "reduce fixation effects by loosening the focus of attention," or make you less likely to get creatively stuck on a solution. But before you break open that second beer, the lead author has a warning: "Beneficial effects are likely restricted to very modest amounts of alcohol, whereas excessive alcohol consumption typically impairs creative productivity." And participants did worse on a test measuring executive function, which refers to the skills that help us get things done, control our emotions, manage time, and so forth, per Understood. (Ambient noise may improve creativity, too.)

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