Alcohol Sparks Creativity, Says Science

by Daniel Reynolds · April 12, 2012

Stuck on a problem? Have a few beers. According to a new study by the University of Illinois, students with a blood alcohol level above .07 performed creative problem-solving tasks significantly better than their sober counterparts.

[John Belushi, via]

Since alcohol diminishes a person's capacity to focus attention, it allows him or her to think outside the box, and access what the study calls "remote ideas" - concepts they wouldn't normally come up with. So while it's probably a bad idea to show up wasted to a math final, a few beers could be the perfect catalyst to jump-start a brainstorming session.

For instance, add a word that goes with the following: blue, cottage, Swiss.

If you answered "cheese," you're probably drunk, because that would be a more creative answer than, say, "mountain," an answer a sober person might come up with. (I said "Heidi," which probably means I could use something more than a drink.)

Dr. Jennifer Wiley, a cognitive psychologist, discussed the results with the FABBS Foundation:

"Innovation may happen when people are not so focused. Sometimes it’s good to be distracted."

Perhaps Don Draper had it right -- a Mad Men martini lunch could be just the thing for stirring up those creative juices.

The study also found that groups are more successful at problem-solving if it's comprised of people with varying levels of intelligence. Said Wiley:

“The low-skilled students learned more, they asked more questions. And they made the high-skilled students think more deeply. So, the group did end up inventing their own formula.”

See? There's a reason stupid people exist, if only to encourage us to drink more.

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