Booze can help you solve creative problems

Frustrated and stressful Asian business manager drinking hard liquor in office | Image: istock

Frustrated and stressful Asian business manager drinking hard liquor in office | Image: istock

A new study says drunken people are better at creative problem-solving.

If you’re working on a big creative project at work and need a little mental boost, you should pop out and grab a couple of alcoholic beverages. As it turns out, new research proves that a few lunchtime happy-hour drinks, or a martini or three at lunch could be beneficial.

But be careful not to exceed the recommended amount.

Professor Andrew Jarosz of Mississippi State University and colleagues served vodka-cranberry cocktails to 20 male subjects until their blood alcohol levels neared legal intoxication and then gave each a series of word association problems to solve.

Not only did those who imbibed give more correct answers than the sober control group performing the same task, they arrived at solutions more quickly. The conclusion: drunken people are better at creative problem-solving.

Speaking to the Harvard Business Review, Jarosz said he and his research team wanted to see if there was any truth to great writers, artists and composers who claim that alcohol enhances their creativity or people who say their ideas are better after a few drinks.

“We gave participants 15 questions from a creative problem-solving assessment called the Remote Associates Test, or RAT … we found that the tipsy people solved two to three more problems than the folks who stayed sober. They also submitted their answers more quickly within the one-minute-per-question time limit, which is maybe even more surprising.”

The researchers found that drunken respondents solved 13 percent to 20 percent more problems than their sober counterparts.

But before you rush down to your local business district watering hole, Jarosz warns that while alcohol administered in a scientifically controlled setting does prove beneficial when it came to solving creative problems, it does still slow us down mentally – especially when consumed in excess.

“If you need to think outside the box, a few happy-hour drinks or a martini at lunch could be beneficial. But I wouldn’t close the bar out, because if you get your blood alcohol level too much beyond .08, you probably won’t be very useful. And you might have trouble screening out terrible ideas,” cautions Jarosz.

Key findings of the study:

  • Tipsy subjects solved 13% to 20% more problems than sober subjects did.
  • Intoxicated subjects had more “Aha!” moments than their sober counterparts.
  • People under the influence submitted answers faster than people in the control group.

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