The news media were delighted by a new study showing that beer may enhance creative problem solving skills. Lead researcher, Professor Jennifer Wiley of the University of Illinois at Chicago, found that participants with a Blood Alcholoci Content (BAC) of around 0.07 or higher (near legally drunk in some states) were better at solving tasks requiring creativity, but worse at requiring attention (i.e. it’s still really bad for activities such as driving).
Wiley hypothesized that working memory, the ability to hold facts at the consicous, immediately retrievable level, may impair innovative thinking.
“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,” said Wiley. “But that’s not necessarily true. Innovation may happen when people are not so focused. Sometimes it’s good to be distracted.”
Of course, research also shows that a vacation or being tired are also good for creativity, as it gets individuals out of their normal routine. The researchers were also quick to point out that sleep could be just as beneficial, if not more so.
So, the point of the study may not endorse getting hammered to solve a creative problem, as much as mixing up one’s daily routine.