What if cracking a beer was the key to getting your next big idea? Well, it might be. A study by the University of Graz says that mild intoxication can boost creativity. The study found that getting a little buzzed can actually help to boost cognition and focus. We’re talking tipsy here, not completely bombed.
The study was led by Dr. Mathias Benedek, the assistant professor of the Institute of Psychology at the University of Graz in Austria. He studied individuals who drank beer and non-alcoholic beer. The alcoholic beer drinkers drank Austrian beer, Gösser Zwickl, a naturally brewed drink beer with 5.2 percent alcohol by volume. The non-alcoholic beer drinkers drank Gösser Naturgold which is made by the same brewery. Both beers tasted and looked the same but the beer drinkers drank until their blood alcohol level was .03%.
How creativity was measured
Both groups were asked to assess their own intoxication levels. Even those who drank the non-alcoholic beer reported being slightly intoxicated. Those who participated in the study were asked to perform tasks aimed at testing their creativity and executive functioning, Sciencing reports.
One of the tasks including was word association. For example, they were asked to find a word that linked three other words together. When given the words Swiss, blue and cake, the beer drinkers were more likely to answer “cheese.” Tipsy test takers were also better at finding creative uses for common objects. These objects included umbrellas, shoes, and car tires.
Alcohol’s effects on cognition
The study found that intoxication diminished executive brain function, which allows us to be productive and manage time. But conversely, it boosted creativity and divergent thinking or one’s ability to “think outside of the box.” One of the reasons is that alcohol’s relaxing effect prevents one from becoming fixated on a problem.
“When initial solution attempts get on the wrong track, this can cause blocks to immediate problem solving, which is known as mental fixation,” Benedek wrote. “Alcohol may reduce fixation effects by loosening the focus of attention.”
Dr. Sian Beilock wrote in Psychology Today that the creative boost offered by alcohol might be attributed to one’s memory. Having a good memory helps one to screen peripheral information. That’s useful for solving analytical problems but not so much when it comes to creative problems.
“Why might being intoxicated lead to improved creativity? The answer has to do with alcohol’s effect on working memory: the brainpower that helps us keep what we want in mind and what we don’t want out. Research has shown that alcohol tends to reduce people’s ability to focus in on some things and ignore others, which also happens to benefit creative problem-solving,” Beilock wrote.
Opening up your creative side
When one is well versed in a subject, it’s harder to contemplate that subject in a creative manner. Alcohol lets you circumvent some of the things you know about the subject and lets you reach the more creative parts of your brain. But this doesn’t mean you should go boozing it up in the name of art. Alcohol affects each of us in different ways. “The findings should not be overgeneralized by assuming that creativity is generally supported by alcohol. Beneficial effects are likely restricted to very modest amounts of alcohol, whereas excessive alcohol consumption typically impairs creative productivity,” Benedek wrote.
This study made sure to adjust the amount of alcohol consumed per each individual’s weight and height. Others things that you consume can also make a difference in how alcohol will affect you. Everyone needs to know what their tolerance is when it comes to drinking alcohol.