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Drinking improves creativity — in men, at least

Frances McInnis
Shine On
March 26, 2012

Ladies, if you want to get your man to spout poetry or write you a love song, here's a tip: give him a drink first. According to a new study, having a few alcoholic beverages can help improve creativity.

The study was performed at the University of Illinois on 40 social-drinking men aged 21 to 30, though it's likely the results apply to women as well.

Half the men drank vodka-cranberry cocktails to raise their blood alcohol level to .075, while the other (less lucky) half stayed sober. Both groups watched an animated movie and completed verbal puzzles of the "which word goes with these other three words" variety, designed to test creative cognition.

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Turns out the tipsy fellows came up with their answers about four seconds quicker and got more correct answers than their sober counterparts.

So, why is a cocktail an effective muse?

"Alcohol manipulates focus," professor Jennifer Wiley, one of the study's co-authors, told Men's Health. After tossing back a few drinks, she explains, you're more likely to let your mind wander, which can help with creative tasks.

The guys with a buzz were more likely to describe sudden, intuitive insights into the problems, while the sober ones took time to deliberate.

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Psychologist J. Scott Saults of the University of Missouri agrees, telling ScienceNews that drinking impedes our ability to control our thoughts. The magazine also reports that Saults and his colleagues have found that intoxicated individuals become less afraid to make mistakes, which could also help to boost creativity.

The study doesn't give men license to get rip-roaring drunk, though. As Wiley told the British Psychological Society's Research Digest, "We tested what happens when people are tipsy — not when people drank to extreme."

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