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Alcohol & Spirits

Study: Vodka Makes Men Smarter

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Fri, Apr 13, 2012 at 1:00 PM

click to enlarge a Cosmopolitan - FLICKR/RALPH AND JENNY
The next time you're dealing with serious writer's block, try a shot of vodka. According to a new study from the University of Illinois, getting a buzz from booze can actually make you smarter.

This isn't the first time the association between creativity and intoxication has been made. According to the study authors, the use of alcohol in particular has been linked to the accomplishments of great individuals. Beethoven, Poe, Hemingway, Coleridge, Pollock and Socrates. (Editor's note: Also sometimes their deaths. See: John Berryman and a whole lot of other people. Maybe create responsibly? Right.)

As the saying goes -- great minds think alike. "Innovation may happen when people are not so focused," Wiley said. "Sometimes it's good to be distracted."

Researchers devised a bar game in which 40 men, ages 21-30, were given three words (i.e. peach, arm, and tar) and told to come up with a fourth (i.e. pit) that fit the pattern. Although those under the influence had poorer memory skills, cognitive psychologist Jennifer Wiley said the alcohol actually enhanced creative problem-solving.

Half of the men were given enough of a cranberry Smirnoff vodka drink to reach an average peak blood alcohol level of 0.075. The other half were given no alcohol. (Participants watched the animated feature film Ratatouille and were given bagels while they consumed the alcoholic beverages.)

The results? Buzzed volunteers did much better. Those at peak intoxication solved about nine problems correctly, versus approximately six winners for the sober crowd. It took an average of 11.5 seconds for intoxicated men to generate a correct solution and 15.2 seconds for sober men.

"We found at 0.07 blood alcohol, people were worse at working-memory tasks, but they were better at creative problem-solving tasks," Wiley said on the Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences (FABBS) site.

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