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Mild Alcohol Use May Unlock Creativity

Drinking two pints of beer inhibits analytical thinking but unlocks the mind's creative side, researchers say.

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By Rebecca Gray

04/11/12

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Men who drink two pints of beer perform better at puzzles that test creative and imaginative thinking, according to a study conducted by the University of Illinois. Two groups of volunteers—one buzzed on two beers, the other completely sober—took word association tests designed to evaluate quick thinking and creative problem-solving. Subjects were given three words (for example "coin," "quick" and "spoon") and told to find the one word that links the other three (you can find the answer to this example below *). Counter-intuitively, the tipsy group solved 40% more of the puzzles than the sober group, at an average of three seconds faster.

This apparently suggests that mild-to-moderate alcohol consumption stimulates the brain's ability to think more creatively and originally. But as study co-author Jennifer Wiley notes, "We tested what happens when people are slightly merry—not when people drink to extremes. The bottom line is that we think being too focused can blind you to novel possibilities, and a broader, more flexible state of attention is needed for creative solutions to emerge." The researchers maintain that alcohol consumption always hampers analytical thinking, which controls logic and judgment. And they're certainly not claiming any positive effects at all from alcohol use in excess of two pints. They simply note that the inhibition of analytical thinking can mean your thoughts become less structured, and therefore more imaginative.

(* silver)

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