Is Alcohol a Creative Juicer?

Pacific Standard: “A new study “reports that, while moderate inebriation doesn’t boost your ability to generate innovative ideas, it can help you avoid one major barrier to creative breakthroughs: getting stuck in a mental rut … The study featured 70 young adults between the ages of 19 and 32. They began the experiment by taking one test measuring executive function, and two measuring creative potential: the Remote Associates Test, and the Alternative Uses Task.”

“For the first, they were presented with three unrelated words (such as cottage, blue, and cake) and asked to come up with a fourth word “that provides an unexpected connection between them” (such as cheese). They tried their hand at 10 such sets of words. For the second test, they were given two and a half minutes to come up with creative uses for specific common objects, such as an umbrella or shoe … The key result: Solution rates on the Remote Associates Test were higher among those who had been drinking. There were no significant differences on the Alternative Uses Task.”

“The researchers offer one likely explanation for the divergent results. They note that, in creative problem solving, ‘initial solution attempts (often) get on the wrong track.’ Unable to see or acknowledge that we’ve gotten off course, we often get stuck at this point, fixated on making our initial idea work rather than searching in more productive places. ‘Alcohol may reduce fixation effects by loosening the focus of attention,’ Benedek and his colleagues write.”

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