Research: Drunk People Are Better at Creative Problem Solving
Alcohol is the most ambivalent thing in today’s society. It has become an ingrained part of the common human beings’ lives that it brings with itself a plethora of both good and bad things.
Even though some people do not consider alcohol to be a helpful or necessary supplement to our diet so to say, by using it in moderation, there are some great benefits that its consumption can bring into people’s lives.
Be aware of the fact that alcohol is considered to be an addictive substance and that there are some people who can get into problems of addictive nature when consuming alcoholic beverages.
Have in mind that you should check your family’s health and addiction history before you take the processes explained here to heart.
There have been a substantial number of research experiments that are aimed at understanding the link between alcohol and creative problem solving, due to the alcohol’s trait to relax the muscles and release the psychological inhibitors that are limiting the process of thinking and filtering thoughts in the brain.
This text will cover a bit of the history of alcohol, the creative problems that affect some people, the benefits alcohol might have on the mind and body, in addition to the disadvantages it may bring, etc.
The main focus of the article will be the research on the link between alcohol and creative problems.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF ALCOHOL
The first civilization that used alcohol in the sense of inebriation is considered to be China, around the year 7000 B.C.
It is unknown what kind exactly was used by the Chinese people around that time, as opposed to the couple of thousand years younger Indian beverage called “sura”, and much younger Babylonian wine.
The alcoholic beverages evolved as the time went on, so there is a case of the native Indians of the American continent fermenting apples and grapes and creating their own beverage dubbed “chicha”.
Finally, there came the sixteenth century and the invention of “spirits”, the strong alcohol liquids primarily used for medicinal purposes, which later was seen by the British parliament as an excellent evolution of the drinking alcohol, the belief which was further reinforced by the parliament having passed the law that encouraged the use of distilling spirits.
On the other side of the pond, the United States of the 1920s were concerned that too much alcohol could harm people in the long run, so they opted for total prohibition of alcohol that lasted for thirteen years, during which time an illegal alcohol trade bloomed and prospered which lead to the cancellation of the prohibition.
Alcohol is a part of the history of the world and has been woven into the very fabric of human existence.
There have been benefits but also a lot of negative things that alcohol caused due to the over-consumption, so always be wary of that.
THE CREATIVE PROCESSES AND PROBLEMS
The mind is a perplexing ocean that has never been explored in depth.
That is why there have always been instances where its processes were researched, both when it is untouched and under the influence of something.
There has been research, which will be covered in the further writing of the text, which shows that consuming alcohol does something to our minds to induce creativity in moderation.
However, let us focus on the processes that happen in the brain. Brain, being a huge puzzle in our body, is somehow capable of doing remarkable things.
From the cognitive linguistics and its way of trying to understand how the human brain of a young child is capable of picking up a language, learning the patterns of their native language and using it successfully, to the complex neuroscience and its efforts to understand the brain and its processes themselves.
Creativity, however, is the most important trait in the human brain that science is always a step away from figuring out.
According to Grant Hilary Brenner, the human brain has three different networks.
The first network is the inactive mode, which is when the brain is in idle state; the second network is the executive control network, which is a sort of a manager of the brain, the part which manages the happenings inside the brain, primarily the emotional parts of the brain, controls attention, decision, and choices.
The third network is the salience network which determines what is noticed and processed in the outside world.
With creative thinking, there is a theory involving these three networks stating that the first, default network is the one that generates ideas, the second, executive network tests and evaluates the ideas, while the third network, the salience network, is the filter bridge between the former two networks, the one that identifies which ideas are getting passed along to the executive network.
During an experiment where the participants were given high and low creativity tasks to handle, there was a boost in the default network activity, 48 percent of total activity, compared to the 16 and 12 percent of the other two networks, respectively, when compared to the highly connected nodes.
These findings can help in distinguishing the more creative people from a group due to the findings of certain brain areas that are active during creative thinking.
Even though there is a clear distinction between the brainpower some people utilize for creative thinking and problem-solving, there is a way to boost the efficiency of the creative problem solving, in a way.
HOW DOES ALCOHOL TRAVEL TO THE BRAIN?
Before covering the experiments and researches in-depth, you will learn more about what happens to our bodies and brains when we consume alcohol.
When a person consumes an alcoholic beverage, the alcohol is being absorbed by the small intestines and stomach, 80 and 20 percent, respectively.
The speed of absorption depends on the concentration of alcohol in the beverage: the larger the concentration, the quicker the absorption, examples of large and small concentration would be a glass of vodka, and a glass of beer, respectively.
The absorbed alcohol enters your bloodstream and travels around the body, where kidneys and lungs expel a smaller percentage of the alcohol, while the liver breaks down the majority percentage of the ingested alcohol into acid.
The traveling around the body is what we are after here.
The alcohol “arrives” to the brain through the central nervous system and it affects the brain through altering neurotransmitters, which send signals that control the whole body, physically and mentally.
In order to fully utilize alcohol, you have to moderately use it, if you do not, you can cause great trouble to yourself.
The goal is to send a certain amount of alcohol to neurotransmitters so that it can help you to temporarily broaden your problem-solving capabilities, in a cognitive sense.
THE RESEARCH AND THE LINK BETWEEN ALCOHOL AND CREATIVE PROBLEM SOLVING
There were a few experiments that had goals of researching whether the people who consumed alcohol performed better in tasks that were closely linked to solving creative problems.
One of the most prominent ones is research conducted by a professor of Mississippi State University, mister Andrew Jarosz. Professor Jarosz was inspired by the great artists who had claimed that their performance in a creative sense was heightened and enhanced after a few drinks.
Professor Jarosz wanted to conduct a formal experiment where he gathered a group of participants whose assignment was to do the so-called “Remote Associates Test” or RAT, which consisted of 15 questions formed by using three key adjective words that the participants had to associate to the main word that consists of these three adjectives.
For example, one question had “duck”, “dollar”, “fold” written, and the answer to that would be “bill”, another one is a question where the key adjectives were “blue”, “cottage”, “white”, the answer being “cheese”.
Before answering the questions, the participants were given drinks and the research conductors brought their alcohol levels just below the legal limit, the limit being .075.
The participants were in an age group of 21 to 30 years of age and they all had drinking experience.
Before the main experiment, the participants had an evaluation test, where their mental capability was gauged through tests involving working memory, for example, simple math problems or to recreate the series of words that they had been exposed to minutes prior.
The participants with within a similar point range were grouped together, to avoid bigger mental capability differences among the groups. The evaluation test was repeated at the end of the experiment.
The experiment was the participants having three drinks of vodka over a period of 30 minutes and the conclusion was that the mildly drunk participants solved almost 20 percent more problems than their sober counterparts.
In addition to their number of correct answers, the speed of their answering was greater than the sober participants, who mostly used the whole one minute per question.
Professor Jarosz has further stated that the participants did not approach the task with a focused and extremely directed approach, but relaxingly and unconsciously combed their brain memories for information, which might have done the trick.
Due to the alcohol’s tendencies to lower the inhibitions and boost confidence, this might have been the reason for certain participants’ better results.
In addition to this experiment, another was conducted by professor Jarosz’s colleague who changed the assignment by giving the participants a “spot the differences” task.
These mini-experiments yielded almost exact results, with an additional piece of information where the intoxicated participants sat back and looked at both pictures from afar to see what stands out, instead of going pixel by pixel as their sober colleagues.
Professor Jarosz also believes that there is a boost of a second language speaking ability in certain people during an intoxication phase, although at the expense of higher grammatical accuracy.
In conclusion, this research showed that there is a link between alcohol and creative problem solving, but it requires you to drink in moderation, just enough to feel buzzed.
From this research, you can easily see that during drinking, our ability to focus decreases, which can come in handy in certain creative problems.
This can be explained through working memory. Working memory is our brain’s ability to store the memories we want to be kept, and toss out the ones we do not want to be stored.
Working memory is important in analytical tasks where they are presented with a lot of information and data needed to complete the aforementioned task.
In creative problems, however, working memory can be a hindrance, as our brain would lose precious time looking for that extra information when there is none.
Alcohol helps with slowing down the ability to write that information into the working memory, helping with creative problems, at the cost of mathematical and analytical problems becoming a hindrance to the intoxicated person.
Jennifer Wiley of the University of Illinois at Chicago conducted a similar experiment, although with a larger number of participants and with an added part in the experiment.
There were around 50 male participants split into groups that had and had not drunk, after which all the groups watched a shorter animated movie.
In the primary stages of the experiment, the participants were presented with two similar pictures per round, one containing an item change. Participants’ task was to analyze and identify the item change, totaling in 8 rounds with 16 pictures in sum.
Jennifer Wiley’s conclusion was that during the experiment, the sober participants used the traditional readers’ strategy of analyzing pictures left to right, top to bottom scan, while the drunk people waited for the item that was out of place to just “stick out”.
The next stage of the experiment was a task focused on working memory and focused attention consisting of remembering various sequences of letters, numbers, and shapes, during which a math problem should be solved.
The drunk participants had a lot of trouble successfully completing this part of the experiment due to the task requiring a lot of attention to detail and logical thinking that utilizes working memory, which is a detriment when slightly inebriated.
In conclusion, the results of these experiments show that drinking in moderation can indeed help you with certain tasks that do not rely on memorizing details but on unchanging information supported by a small number of additional information.
The results of these and many other studies have shown that drinking within a limit of a standard drink can help you in a multitude of ways, not just in solving creative problems.
The goal is to know how much to drink without getting too much of a buzz and avoid becoming more intoxicated than needed, so as to use the potential that alcohol unlocks in the creative brain hemisphere.
As previously said, in order to hit the spot, you have to have in mind that you should avoid overdrinking in order to fully utilize the creative boost drinking alcohol can give you.
OTHER BENEFITS ALCOHOL BRINGS TO THE TABLE
As previously mentioned, alcohol affects you through neurotransmitters, particularly one called gamma-Aminobutyric acid or GABA, for short.
Alcohol alters it, slowing down the signals that it sends to the other parts of the body.
That is why you have trouble walking in a straight line or having trouble doing any motor function.
However, by lowering down the neurotransmitter signal activity, it actually increases the levels of dopamine in your brain, which has the job of sending pleasure signals to your brain, making you feel better, and increases the levels of norepinephrine, as well, which is transmitting the sense of excitement to your brain.
In addition to the psychological boost in creative problem solving that alcohol brings to the person, there are also other effects that happen inside the body.
Moderate amounts of alcohol raise levels of good cholesterol which further lowers the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Also, it provides some beneficial changes that prevent the formation of blood clots.
There is a study conducted by the Catholic University of Campobasso, which says that drinking up to four drinks a day could reduce the risk of death by 18 percent.
This is based on the features of some diets where alcohol is an additional component that helps the metabolism, such as the Mediterranean diet.
Some studies, like the one study conducted at Carnegie Mellon University, claim that while the risks of catching a common cold are increased by cigarette smoke, moderate alcohol consumption can decrease the risk of catching a common cold. Eight to fifteen glasses of wine per week can lead to decrease in the risk of catching and developing the common cold.
Another study has said that alcohol can also decrease the chances of developing dementia.
The study claims that the risks of developing cognitive impairments and ailments are decreased by 23 percent if you are a moderate drinker.
Alcohol toughens the brain cells up and makes them more resilient to stresses and cognitive impairments.
Alcohol also lowers the chance of diabetes. Dutch studies have concluded that adults who drink up to two drinks a day have a decreased chance of developing type 2 diabetes when compared to other people who do not drink.
If you wish to learn more about the benefits that alcoholic beverages can have on your body, give this article a read.
DISADVANTAGES OF OVERCONSUMPTION OF ALCOHOL
Even though there are many benefits of alcohol consumption, there are also a handful of risks.
A set quantity of alcohol might improve cognitive abilities, however, if you step over the line, the cognitive abilities diminish.
Heavy drinkers and drinkers who are considered chronic are thought to have diminished gray matter in the brain, and memory loss.
The chronic drinker who drinks for an extended period of time might attain a cognitive deficit that may continue in sobriety.
The gray matter in the brain might diminish over time, and the brain might decrease a bit in size.
The most common problem that arises in heavy drinking is the loss of ability to remember or perceive the location of objects, most widely known as an impairment of visuospatial abilities.
For people who are known to frequently over drink, there are a few minor disadvantages that may affect them.
Some of the disadvantages are, but not limited to: loss of self-control, due to sedative properties of alcohol; damage to liver, due to liver being the main organ which breaks down the alcohol in your body; nerve damage, due to the alcohol being a hydrophilic solvent, it can penetrate fat tissues and cause nerve damage; causes obesity, due to majority of alcoholic beverages consisting of carbohydrates.
There are many disadvantages that alcohol brings if the person drinks too much of it, due to it being an addictive substance that rewards your dopamine levels, so it is of utmost importance to utilize the advantages by controlling your alcoholic intake.
There are many studies that show how controlled alcohol intake can provide not only a great boost in your creative problem solving but also other health benefits.
Even though alcohol is still an addictive substance, you should always be more careful about how much you drink.
There are many advantages and disadvantages that alcohol might bring into your life, but the most important thing that consuming alcoholic beverages is the boost in the creative thinking department.
In order to achieve that significant boost in creative thinking, you have to find the middle ground in drinking alcoholic beverages: not get too much drunk but go for that “buzzed” feeling.
It is an interesting way of approaching creative problems due to the certain characteristics the alcohol unlocks in you: the ability to perceive things and problems as a whole, without indulging in the details of the task, but focusing on the main matter at hand.
Proven to work, alcohol is a good way to boost your creative thinking and easily find better solutions for certain problems, but have in mind that there are difficult points that need to be fulfilled before successfully using alcohol as a creativity booster, such as getting the quantity of alcohol needed and more.
All in all, alcohol is a good way to approach creative problems from a different angle, at a certain cost.
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