Caffeine boosts problem solving ability

The cognitive benefits of caffeine — increased alertness, improved vigilance, enhanced focus and improved motor performance — are well established.  However, its effect on creative thinking is less known.  A study published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition by a University of Arkansas researcher further confirmed that caffeine does increase your ability to focus and solve problems, however it doesn’t stimulate creativity.

For the study, 80 volunteers were randomly given either a 200mg caffeine, equivalent to two cups of coffee, or a placebo (or four expresso shots). They were then tested on standard measures of convergent and divergent thinking, working memory and mood.  Convergent thinking is defined as seeking a specific solution to a problem, for example, the “correct” answer. Divergent thinking is characterized by idea generation where a large set of novel or interesting responses would be suitable.  

The 200mg caffeine was shown to enhance problem solving (meaning, convergent thinking) significantly in the study.  However, the data suggests that the stimulant has no significant impact on creative thinking (meaning, divergent thinking).  In addition, caffeine also did not significantly affect working memory.  On the mood, the test subjects who took the caffeine did report feeling less sad.  

So, yes, caffeine does make you feel happier, and smarter too.

Thanks for reading.

Journal Reference: Darya L. Zabelina, Paul J. Silvia. Percolating ideas: The effects of caffeine on creative thinking and problem solvingConsciousness and Cognition, 2020; 79: 102899 DOI: 10.1016/j.concog.2020.102899

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