Beer Can Make You Smarter

By Michael C. Upton | May 5, 2012 | 0 Comments |
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We've all heard of beer goggles.  But what about beer brains?  New research shows that throwing back a few actually helps with decision making. 

No, seriously, someone actually published a study.

Reports all over the media—from daily medical news sites to regional television news stations—are trumpeting the findings of a study by the University of Illinois at Chicago's Psychology Department.  The study, “Uncorking the muse: Alcohol intoxication facilitates creative problem solving,” by Andrew F. Jarosz, Gregory J.H. Colflesh, and Jennifer Wiley shows that men who consumed the equivalent of two pints of beer actually outperformed their sober rivals when it came to finding solutions to brain teasers.  Not only did the drunkards get more problems correct, they answered them quicker than the teetotalers. 

The conclusion is that alcohol intoxication at the level of 0.07 percent allows the mind to concentrate at a higher level enhancing creative problem solving.  Maybe that is why some people are better at pool after a couple beers.  It may explain the popularity of bar room trivia contests.  The study is clear to state its focus is on creative problem solving, not rational decision making (like getting behind the wheel of a car after drinking, which is never a good idea). Scientific opponents to the study agree in part, but also point out that a good night's sleep could achieve the same level of problem solving.

“We have this assumption, that being able to focus on one part of a problem or having a lot of expertise is better for problem solving.  But that’s not necessarily true. Innovation may happen when people are not so focused. Sometimes it’s good to be distracted,” Wiley, a Cognitive psychologist, said in a recent interview published at MedicalDaily.com.  “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 study targeted 40 male social drinkers between the ages of 21 and 30 (whom she found on campus and through CraigsList).  The group was split in half; 20 remained sober and the other 20 went about their normal drinking activity for a month.  If any member of the group displayed signs of alcoholism or other result-compromising behavior they were removed from the study.  Science minded individuals might want to check out the published study here: http://litd.psch.uic.edu/personal/jwiley/drunk.pdf.  A beer or two might be a good idea before sitting down to comprehend the technical verbiage. 

Your Choice. Your Beer. Drink Up.
- Beer Universe

Michael C. Upton is a staff writer for Beer Universe, you can follow him on facebook



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