Could the three-martini lunch make a comeback? More booze news you can use!
Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Monday, June 11, 2012
Bear this in mind as you read the following news item: For the vast majority of workplaces, alcohol consumption during work hours could lead to significantly more than mere dismissal from employment. For those whose work involves human life – such as heavy machinery operators, healthcare professionals, law enforcement officers, and others – it could result in harm or loss of life to individuals.
However, for those who do high-level thinking, or are involved in the creative arts, this could be a boon to their efforts.
To your health!
Having A Drink Or Two At Work Could Boost Your Productivity
The researchers observed 40 men between the ages of 21 and 30. Half of them drank enough vodka to achieve a blood alcohol content of 0.7 (the equivalent of 2 pints of beer for an average-sized man), and the other half refrained from alcohol consumption.
The men who drank the vodka performed better than those who didn’t on a standard “Remote Associates Test,” in which participants are shown a set of words and asked to identify a word that’s related.
But the test only looked at what happens when people are mildly buzzed.
Andrew Jarosz and his team recruited 40 male social drinkers aged 21 to 30. All were required to abstain from alcohol and drugs for 24 hours prior to the experiment and to avoid food and caffeine for 4 hours prior. Half the participants were allocated to the alcohol condition and they consumed enough vodka to achieve a blood alcohol concentration of .07 (approximately this equates to an average-sized man drinking two pints of beer). The other participants acted as controls and consumed no alcohol.
Next, all the participants completed the “Remote Associates Test”, a popular test of insightful thinking in which three words are presented on each round (e.g. coin, quick, spoon) and the aim is to identify the one word that best fits these three (e.g. silver). Relevant past research has shown, paradoxically, that people with higher working memory capacity often perform worse at this task because they persist with pursuing lines of thought triggered by misleading words.
The key finding of the new research is that the intoxicated participants solved more items on the Remote Associates Test compared with the control participants (they solved 58 per cent of 15 items on average vs. 42 per cent average success achieved by controls), and they tended to solve the items more quickly (11.54 seconds per item vs. 15.24 seconds). Moreover, the intoxicated participants tended to rate their experience of problem solving as more insightful, like an Aha! moment, and less analytic. They also performed worse on a working memory test, as you might expect.
Jarosz and his team said that mild intoxication may have these benefits for tasks like the Remote Associates Test because being mildly drunk facilitates a divergent, diffuse mode of thought, which is useful for such tasks where the answer requires thinking on a tangent. The new finding complements a study covered on the Digest earlier this year that found participants performed better on a creative problem-solving task during their least favoured time of day – again, presumably because their state of grogginess encouraged a divergent thinking style.
There’s even research showing superior performance on matchstick arithmetic problems (in which equations written in matchsticks must be corrected by moving a single matchstick) by participants with frontal brain damage vs. controls, again the suggestion being that having impaired attentional control can sometimes be advantageous.
Jarosz and his colleagues concluded: “Though only a first step, the current research represents the first empirical demonstration of alcohol’s effects on creative problem solving, while also providing suggestions of the critical underlying mechanisms that allow for this benefit in problem solving performance.”
The Digest asked co-author Jenny Wiley if there was a risk this research could encourage alcohol abuse. “We tested what happens when people are tipsy — not when people drank to extreme,” she told us. “There could be no argument from these findings that drinking excessively would have the same effects.”
She stressed the research was part of a wider line of enquiry showing how different mind-sets can affect creative problem solving – other research by her lab and elsewhere has shown that being in a positive mood is also beneficial; as is telling people to go with their gut feelings; so too having early bilingual experience, probably because it allows people to flip between different ways of looking at a problem.
“So the bottom line,” Wiley said, “is that we think being too focused can blind you to novel possibilities, and a broader, more diffuse or more flexible attentional state may be needed for creative solutions to emerge. Some folks may choose a pint of ale as their muse, others can choose one of these other contexts … “.
Uncorking the muse: Alcohol intoxication facilitates creative problem solving
- Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago, 1007 W. Harrison St. MC 285, Chicago, IL 60647, United States
- Received 17 August 2011. Available online 28 January 2012.
That alcohol provides a benefit to creative processes has long been assumed by popular culture, but to date has not been tested. The current experiment tested the effects of moderate alcohol intoxication on a common creative problem solving task, the Remote Associates Test (RAT). Individuals were brought to a blood alcohol content of approximately .075, and, after reaching peak intoxication, completed a battery of RAT items. Intoxicated individuals solved more RAT items, in less time, and were more likely to perceive their solutions as the result of a sudden insight. Results are interpreted from an attentional control perspective.