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Alcohol as Muse

New research indicates that alcohol, which many a moody poet has indulged in, may actually increase creativity. Psychologists Andrew F. Jarosz, Gregory J.H. Colflesh, and Jennifer Wiley recruited 40 males, got half of them a little tipsy on vodka, and then subjected them to the “Remote Associates Test,” which tests insightful thinking.  Their results, as summarized by the BPS Research Digest, were surprisingly good:

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. 

The authors believe alcohol consumption may encourage the kind of “divergent, diffuse mode of thought” that inspires creativity. “So the bottom line 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,” says Wiley. “Some folks may choose a pint of ale as their muse, others can choose one of these other contexts …”