It’s always been thought that a glass of wine or a pint of lager loosens up the brain, but now scientists have proved it. Don’t beer-lieve it? Psychologist Jennifer Wiley from the University of Illinois has done the research…
Participants aged between 21 and 30 were either given a bottle of beer or a non-alcoholic beer and then asked to complete a series of association tasks. The beer-drinkers exceeded in creative cognition compared to the non beer-drinkers. But why?
By fixating on a task your mind can become stuck on just one way of approaching it, causing a creative block. Alcohol reduced the brain’s ability to focus on some things, disinhibiting the unconscious mind which led to alternative solutions and spontaneous insight.
Research has also shown that taking breaks and gentle exercise – such as going for a walk – also has the same effect on the unconscious, freeing your mind from any mental fixations and allowing you to incubate whilst engaged in another menial task. Perhaps a walk to the pub at lunchtime for a quick half before the afternoon brainstorm ticks both boxes?
Unfortunately too much wine decreases your executive control and divergent thinking. But you knew that already.
Be warned: don’t make pour decisions
“Good wine is a good familiar creature, if it be well used”
Shakespeare knew it – in fact half the great writers had a history of drinking. However before you try to outdrink Don Draper, remember that while a small drink could help with certain aspects of creativity, drinking too much can dull creativity and worse, lead to alcohol abuse.
Case in point these creative masters who have leaned heavily on alcohol and as a result struggled with a life of addiction:
- Vincent Van Gogh
- Fyodor Dostoyevsky
- Stephen King
- Billy Joel
- Robin Williams
- Mel Gibson
- Samuel L Jackson
- Dylan Thomas
- Ernest Hemingway
- Flann O’Brien
- Kingsley Amis
- F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Orson Welles
- Jackson Polloc
But a couple of looseners? No problem – cheers!