Many of the world’s most creative minds have been associated with alcohol, from iconic writers like Ernest Hemingway and Hunter S Thompson to famous actors and musicians like Oliver Reed and Jim Morrison. While it’s fair to say many of these people overdid the booze (to say the least), there is evidence to suggest that a tipple of alcohol can actually help get the creative juices flowing.
A new study, published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition, has found that downing a glass of beer – around 500 milliliters of beer for men or 350 milliliters for women – allows people to think more creatively. We'll cheers to that.
The study by the University of Graz in Austria gathered over 80 people and randomly divided them into two groups: beer-drinkers and non-alcoholic beer drinkers. You’ll be pleased to know the Austrian researchers specifically note in the study they chose a brand of beer that had a non-alcoholic equivalent that tasted and looked just the same. Importantly, even the non-alcoholic beer drinkers said they felt a little bit tipsy by the end of the experiment. The amount of alcoholic beer the first group drank was individually adjusted to get their blood alcohol concentration to around 0.03.
They were then asked to take part in numerous tasks to test their creativity. One example was a word-association game that presented three unrelated words (eg cottage, blue, cake) and asked for a word that provides a link between them (for example, cheese: cottage cheese, blue cheese, cheesecake).
On many of these tasks, the performances by the mildly-intoxicated people were better than the placebo group.
“There are two theories for how this works,” said lead author Dr Mathias Benedek, the Independent reports. “The first being that when you are really focusing on solving a problem, you can become fixated so that your mind gets stuck on one way of addressing it. Alcohol makes it more difficult to keep all the parameters of the task in mind, but that can also help you come at it from another direction."
"The second theory is that alcohol, which is distracting from the central task, allows you to tap into your unconscious mind and find alternative solutions,” he added.
The study notes these findings should be taken with a pinch of salt (no, not for the tequila shot). The research also found that alcohol reduces your executive control, such as attention, cognitive inhibition, and working memory – just like any Sunday morning will find you. Furthermore, excessive alcohol actually greatly impairs creative ability, despite what the rock ‘n’ roll legends tell you.