Beer For Hire: A study In Problem Solving


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A new study published by the University of Illinois at Chicago on the effects of intoxication and problem solving reveals that consuming moderate amounts of beer can stimulate enhanced problem-soling abilities. The study titled, Uncorking the Muse, fed participants beer until their blood alcohol content (BAC) reached .075, or just under the legal driving limit in most states, then administered a series of typical problem-solving tasks.

What the researchers found was that when compared to sober test-takers, those who were moderately intoxicated, performed better on Random Associates Tests (RAT). Essentially they solved more problems in less time. Why would this be true? It has long been known that altered states of consciousness can produce a more flexible and creative thought process. I guess the key here would be not to get so drunk that you can't think rationally, but get intoxicated enough so you can stretch your imagination.

According to the researchers, participants who consumed the beer were worse at completing task that required concentration, but excelled at problems requiring unique solutions. In fact, intoxicated problem-solvers solved 40% more problems than sober participants.

Lead author on the study, Professor Jennifer Wiley comments on the results of the research:

“We have this assumption, that being able to focus on one part of a problem or having a lot of expertise is better for problem solving,”

“But that’s not necessarily true. Innovation may happen when people are not so focused. Sometimes it’s good to be distracted.”

“The bottom line is that we think being too focused can blind you to novel possibilities, and a broader, more flexible state of attention is needed for creative solutions to emerge,”

So if you're hung up on a problem, it might be okay to take a break and have a beer. Sometimes having a breakthrough means breaking the cycle. A change of perspective might be all it takes to bridge the gap between where you are now and where you want to be creatively. Innovation doesn't happen by accident, but sometimes inspiration does.

I thought these would be good words to leave you with on a Friday. Get out there and have a beer, it might lead to something great, and at the very least you might enjoy it. Cheers!