Science shows that sessionable inebriation leads to creative thinking

Quickly, what do each of these 3 words have in common?

  1. butter, dragon, paper – ?
  2. melon, logged, proof -?
  3. cart, barrow, chair -?

While you probably figured it was fly (butterfly, dragonfly, flypaper), water (watermelon, waterlogged, waterproof) and wheel (cartwheel, wheelbarrow, wheelchair), your ever so-slightly imbibed self probably answered correctly and quicker than your sober self. And according to science, a bit of alcohol actually helps with creativity.

In tests run at the Mississippi State University and the University and Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz, a moderate amount of inebriation helped subjects perform better at a Remote Associates Test (RAT) than those who held on to their sobriety. Idea was to push the test subject to local legal driving limits, which ranged from 0.03% to 0.075%. Note that New Zealand is much stricter, so please consider transportation alternatives if you want to test this out on your own. Research indicates that the saturation point is around 0.08%; it becomes a slippery down into unproductive stupor. The key, it seems, is keeping your buzz sessionable.

So how does this work exactly?

It does so by affecting working memory filter: Alcohol reduces ability to for the mind to focus narrowly, and in some cases completely ignore things. When sober, minds work more analytically. This is helpful for working towards goals; the less unrelated obstacles you mind can filter, the closer you can systematically get to your goal.  Unfortunately, it also comes with a degree of bias that often blindsided obvious solutions.

Take for instance, pretend you are a devout rugby union fan. You are presented with the following word association test while sober:

  1. drop
  2. box
  3. eye

Your devotion to rugby may get you drop-kick, box-kick but then get stuck on eye-kick (or kick-eye)? However, after sharing a can of Suragga with a couple of your mates, you will soon discover that shadow fits all the terms (dropshadow, shadowbox, eyeshadow). A high working memory in rugby might get you stuck on certain problems, but indulging in a bit of tipple might unhinge your analytical mind just enough to find the right answers!


Read more below!

  1. Uncorking the muse: Alcohol intoxication facilitates creative problem solving
  2. Alcohol Benefits the Creative Process