Oh, Alcohol, is there nothing you can't do?

Drinking Alcohol May Significantly Enhance Problem Solving Skills

Scientists found that men who either drank two pints of beer or two glasses of wine before solving brain teasers not only got more questions right, they also were quicker in delivering correct answers, compared to men who answered the questions sober.

While the latest findings go against the traditional beliefs that alcohol impairs analytical thinking and rational thoughts, lead author Professor Jennifer Wiley of the University of Illinois at Chicago discovered that alcohol may enhance creativity problem solving by reducing the mind's working memory capacity, which is the ability to concentrate on something in particular.

"Working memory capacity is considered the ability to control one's attention," Wiley told the Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences. "It's the ability to remember one thing while you're thinking about something else."

Wiley said that the key finding was that being too focused can blind a person to novel possibilities and a broader, more flexible state of attention may be helpful for creative solutions to emerge.

Previously, previously.


14 Responses:

  1. Barry Kelly says:

    The same logic may partly explain why those arty people from school / college who seemed a bit dim could actually be fairly good at what they do.

    • I see Youtube embedding has fallen off the trolley again. The flash object for your video is showing up at the top-left of the viewport, but the shiny green border is showing up at the correct place. I can only chalk this up to Youtube changing their embed markup again…

      (Safari Version 5.1.2 (7534.52.7))

    • John Carter says:

      See also: we were very, very drunk: alcoholic bohemia and memories of the BBC.

      There’s a general impression that the fifties were an age of buttoned down conformity, before the sixties came along and gave birth to the counterculture in all its druggy glory. In fact, the fifties were just as countercultural, but the bohemian types of those days didn’t have the wide array of drugs to choose from that their successors enjoyed. They were stuck with alcohol, and made the best of it. From my mum’s account, everybody with any creative impulse did their best to be pissed all of the time. And it’s a constant feature of other memoirs of the period…

      “…acquaintances were often rated exclusively by their habitual drinking volume. So-and-so could ‘put it away (drunk a lot of the time), or ‘drank like a fish’ (drunk almost all the time) or – this usually said with an air of gravity – was a ‘very heavy drinker’ (blotto ad inf). The word ‘alcoholic’ was reserved for people shackled to their hospital beds, screaming at the pink mice nibbling their toes…”

      Yes, they were titans then. Boho London is arguably the only environment in which the introduction of cocaine actually improved the general level of health. And it added extra urgency to mum’s job. She not only had to track down drunken literati in time for them to go to air, she had to get hold of them before they became completely incoherent.

  2. piku says:

    Well it certainly worked for me playing co-op Portal 2 last night. Although playing that game when actually drunk is a bad idea, unless you like motion sickness.

  3. greenhorn says:

    Hey y'all, hold my beer and watch this!

  4. gryazi says:

    Basically my experience with actual anxiety medication that twiddles the same GABA-related pathways. When all your attention is looping on AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIGH, actual problem-solving ability goes downhill along with the more obvious problems as regards getting near the problem, etc. [In other words, keeping working memory at its absolute maximum is useless if every slot is occupied by recalling reasons to panic.]

    "Loosening up" is definitely a Thing. Unfortunately, as with booze, both overshooting and acquiring tolerance can become problems.

  5. phuzz says:

    Two beers is my preferred level of endrunkening for playing pool (or similar games). It generally doesn't help with computer games though.

  6. John Bloom says:

    I actually ran into this the other night trying to untangle a giant mess involving failed branching with git and manually copying changes between different places. A beer and a couple shots later and I was able to actually just wade in and get things "fixed." I also find the alcohol helps me dismiss the elegant solutions when a pragmatic solution is just as effective and far quicker.

    • jwz says:

      "Never root sober", I always say. I type a little slower, but it keeps the blinding rage at bay. Pro tip: if you can't type the root password on the first try, you may have overshot.

      • John Bloom says:

        As a sysadmin, "never root sober" might not be a very good policy for me as far as my liver is concerned.

        • Andrew says:

          Fix a server, take a shot

          (and wouldn't you know it, "Alcohol" by Barenaked Ladies just came on)

          • John Bloom says:

            Well that almost makes it sound like payment on completion (and pretty crappy pay at that). I'd be inclined to ask for 4 times that much and half up-front. :)

            (And coincidentally, you get three guesses why I'm up at 5AM ...)

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