People who drink tend to solve more problems demanding verbal resourcefulness in less time than sober guys, finds a new study. “Sudden, intuitive insights into tricky word-association problems occurred more frequently when men were intoxicated but not legally drunk,” reports Science News quoting psychologist Andrew Jarosz of the University of Illinois at Chicago and his colleagues. They say, sober men take a more deliberate approach to this task, while a moderate alcoholic high loosens a person’s focus of attention, making it easier to find connections among remotely related ideas.
During the study, 20 social drinkers watched an animated movie while eating a snack. Volunteers then drank enough of a vodka cranberry drink to reach an average peak of blood alcohol level of 0.075 per cent, just below the current 0.08 per cent cut off for legal intoxication in the United States. Another 20 social drinkers watched the same movie without eating or drinking.
Both groups then completed a creative problem-solving task. For each of 15 items, volunteers saw three words – say peach, arm and tar – and had to think a fourth word that forms a phrase with each of them, such as pit.
While persons at peak intoxication solved about nine problems correctly, the sober crowd could solve an average six. It took an average 11.5 seconds for the tipsy to get a correct solution, compared to 15.2 seconds for the sober. Both groups performed comparably on the test before the study.
Alcohol, it has been found to act as a depressant, reducing motor function and causing a feeling of relaxation. Psychologically, it makes people feel high or creative or outgoing or brave by blocking certain inhibiting mechanisms in the personality. A small, occasional dose may keep our anxieties and eagerness from spoiling our best efforts.
There are conflicting researches on the efficacy of alcohol on creativity. American Journal of Psychology reports, ‘creative individuals may use psychoactive drugs to enhance their ability to produce creative works, but it is difficult to differentiate the pharmacological effect from other influences’.
US author Roger Yespen writes in his book ‘How to Boost Your Brain Power’, “alcohol is a gifted chemical. Depending on how much is consumed, it can act as a food, a drug or a poison.”