Uncork the Muse! Is creativity sparked by altered cognitive states brought on by insanity, sleep state, mood, or substance use? Alcohol, in particular, has been credited with inspiring creative geniuses from Socrates to Beethoven, Poe, Hemingway, Coleridge, and Pollock. In contrast to analytical problem solving, which requires high attention span and working memory capacity, creative problem solving involves flashes of intuition. A recent study tested the effect of moderate alcohol consumption on creative thinking.
The Experiment: Male social drinkers were administered alcohol to a blood alcohol level of 0.07 (just below the drinking limit for driving) then given the RAT (Remote Associates Test). For example, participants were given three target words such as PEACH, ARM, and TAR, and were tasked with finding a fourth word, such as PIT, that forms a good two-word phrase with each of the target words. This type of word association involves out of the box, creative thinking. They were also asked if they came by the association intuitively (as in an Aha! moment).
The Results: As seen in the figure, intoxicated participants reported significantly more insightful solutions than sober participants. Even better, they solved significantly more RAT problems (M = .58, SD = .13) than their sober counterparts (M = .42,SD = .16). They also solved them faster (M = 11.54 s, SD = 3.75) compared to sober controls (M = 15.24 s, SD = 5.57). The study concluded that moderate alcohol consumption improved creative memory tasks. Cheers!
Extra Credit: How was the alcohol administered? Why did they choose men and not women? What did the men do while they consumed their drinks?
Source: Uncorking the muse: Alcohol intoxication facilitates creative problem solving. Andrew F. Jarosz, Gregory J.H. Colflesh ,and Jennifer Wiley. Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago