Drinking Beer Solves Problems. Capisce?
If you’re hung up on a brain-twizzling problem, crack a brew. A new study from the University of Illinois suggest that, contrary to common belief, alcohol’s buzz might actually improve your problem-solving skills.
A team from the University of Illinois at Chicago and led by Professor Jennifer Wiley believes that inebriation might enhance the mind’s “working memory capacity”. This is how well one pays attention to a specific subject. “It’s the ability to remember one thing while you’re thinking about something else,” Wiley said. By lowering this capacity, the mind becomes more adept at lateral thinking strategies and novel solutions.
The team found that test subjects with a BAC of .07 (just under legally drunk in most states) struggled with attention-intensive trials but excelled at questions that required more flexible thinking. The study found that the drunks not only solved 40 percent more questions than their sober control group, they did so three and a half seconds faster as well — completing their tests in 12 seconds compared to 15.5 for the sobers.
“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,” said Wiley. The findings certainly makes sense, given alcohol’s reputation as a social and intellectual lubricant.