Researcher Says A Bit Of Beer May Help Creative Problem-Solving

Science usually plays the role of wet blanket when it comes to the topic of how alcohol affects the human body. But a researcher at the University of Illinois at Chicago says that downing a couple brewskis may actually improve one’s creative problem-solving abilities.

Cognitive psychologist Jennifer Wiley and her colleagues tested subjects’ prowess at creative problem-solving both when sober and at various stages of intoxication.

“We found at 0.07 blood alcohol, people were worse at working memory tasks, but they were better at creative problem-solving tasks,” says Wiley.


That’s because the alcohol helped study participants access remote ideas, ideas that develop through association not linear analysis. In fact, linear reasoning can keep people focused on ideas they think are important but really aren’t.

For example, if Wiley asked you to tell her what word goes with the following: blue, cottage, Swiss. And you said, “cheese,” you’d be accessing your remote ideas, not linear ones. That is, you associated blue, cottage, and Swiss with cheese, a commendable and constructive thing to do.

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

Wiley says you don’t necessarily need alcohol to bring out the creative problem-solver hidden inside you. Merely changing your routine can be enough to shake things up for a bit. Wiley also says that working in groups of more than two people can foster creativity.

“In groups of two, we tend to be more polite, not to confront or ask questions,” she explains. “But when you respond to a question in a group of three, you’re not confronting, you’re speaking up for the whole group. So, it turns out that makes for a little more conflict, and good information comes out. In groups of two, people are looking for commonalities. Agreeing may get you through tasks quickly, but it doesn’t help solve problems in the long run.”

Thus, Wiley’s research has confirmed what some of us already knew: That going out to grab a few beers at 3 P.M. with a group of friends is the absolute best way to solve any and all problems.

Thank you Science!

Creative Problem Solving: Forget the Focus []


Edit Your Comment

  1. clippy2.0 says:

    Hi, it loooksh like you’re trying to do something…. hic!

    Dosh you need help with ‘at?

  2. Hi_Hello says:

    i figure they do crazy stuff until it’s ‘fixed’. but not be a good idea.

  3. GinChevyChase says:

    My “research” has confirmed this as well. At least that’s what I told my boss…

  4. Scooter McGee says:

    Now to get my boss to read this…

  5. DemosCat says:

    So does being scatterbrained mean you can be more creative? What about someone who has a bit of Asberger’s or OCD?

    Too much to ponder. Just give me a beer.

  6. Chizzer says:

    Any programmer in the world will tell you that this is already a well-regarded practice.

    • Not Given says:

      Even if you’re stuck in a loop and no matter how many times you look at the code you don’t see the extra “;”?

  7. gman863 says:

    Creative problem solving question test:

    Billy Bob is stumped on a project his boss assigned him. In order to get the creative juices flowing, he stops at the Quickie Mart for a liquid lunch consisting of a burrito and a six pack of Milwaukee’s Best

    1. Upon being pulled over, what are the statistical odds of Officer Friendly accepting an IQ test in place of a breathalyser test?

    2. Rounded to the nearest percentile, what is the probability Billy Bob’s creative solution will involve crashing a forklift or other piece of heavy machinery into the boss’ office.

    3. If the thought problem involved marketing a product to the Hispanic community, would he have been better off spending an extra $ to upgrade to Dos Eques?

    • MathMan aka Random Talker says:

      1. 0

      2. Percentile is not the right word. Percent would be. The answer would be 1 though

      3. No.

      • MathMan aka Random Talker says:

        Upon further thought for number 2, if you created a probability distribution for all outcomes of driving the forklift or heavy equipment after downing a 6er of The Beast (aka Milwaukee’s Best) and you were asking where on the probability distribution (what percentile) of all outcomes does “crashing into bosses office” lie, then percentile is the right word.

        My apologies for jumping the gun and saying percentile was the wrong word.

    • Arctic Snowbot says:

      This question is null and void because we all know Milwaukee’s Best is chemically the same as water. However, if the person drank an actual six pack of beer, your questions might work.

      • MathMan aka Random Talker says:

        Like Monty Python said, American beer is like having sex in a canoe

        • DemosCat says:

          In my opinion, Milwaukee’s Best is known as “the beast” because it came from a horse.

          Get a real beer! :)

      • gman863 says:

        The satire was based on a typical Redneck.

        Question #4: What are the odds a guy named Billy Bob would actually purchase a quality brand of beer?

        • MathMan aka Random Talker says:

          Damn, I could not resist and must post again for this new math problem.

          The answer to 4 is .2.

          First you have to calculate the probability that a redneck is drunk = .8 and then multiply it by the probability that the redneck is so drunk that when he goes to purchase more beer he’s not paying attention and buys one of them fangled fancy beers = .25.

          Therefore, the probability of a redneck purchasing a fancy beers = .8 x .35 = .2

  8. Mark702 says:

    I’ll take cannabis over a can a’ beer any day. Better and safer!

    • MathMan aka Random Talker says:

      But then you risk becoming too creative so there is no executable solution. With beer, you have an executable solution but not soberness to execute… That gives me an idea‚Ķ.hmmmm‚Ķ combine one group of drunken people coming up with ideas and one group people with the meticulous attention to detail of people in a cannabis haze and you may solve all the world‚Äôs problems! Ok, I‚Äôve posted like 30 times on this thread. Gonna stop posting and go drink.

      • failurate says:

        “meticulous attention to detail of people in a cannabis haze”

        It’s been a long time, but that’s not how I remember it working.

        • MathMan aka Random Talker says:

          Well… the details one is focusing on might be “the texture of the rug” or how funny the word “munch” sounds so there is definitely a flaw to the plan….

          hehe “munch”

  9. XianZomby says:

    That baby wants to be breast feeding right now. But thanks to anti-woman laws, her mother is forced to give her the bottle. The beer bottle. Now she will grow up to be a poet instead of somebody that can support herself.

  10. Blueskylaw says:

    “but they were better at creative problem-solving tasks,”

    Like how to locate more beer/liquor after the stores close at 9:00PM.

  11. Cicadymn says:

    Look at that freaking baby.

    That is freaking adorable.

    Don’t lick that bottle baby, that’s a beer bottle. Baby’s don’t drink beer. You’re being ridiculous.

  12. Pigfish99 the randomly insane says:

    So its been proven. Ballmer Peak exists!

    • bonzombiekitty says:

      I was a computer science major. I can confirm that alcohol is very helpful at solving problems encountered while coding. There were several times I’d be working on a project whilst drinking, wake up in the morning, program would be working but I’d have no idea how I did it. I’d then look at what I wrote and go “that was brilliant!”

  13. BK31 says:

    I can’t tell you the number of initial plan sketches I’ve come up with for offices and houses after a couple of beers. I haven’t met too many architects that don’t use it as an occasional ‘design tool’

  14. Snowblind says:

    Hold my beer while I figure this out…

  15. Bodger says:

    Yeah beer works but it works better when combined with Szechuan takeout. This has been proven many times during late-night sessions right before a critical project deadline.

  16. Cat says:

    ‚ÄúAlright Brain, you don’t like me, and I don’t like you. But lets just do this, and I can get back to killing you with beer.‚Äù

  17. powdered beefmeat says:

    When I drink, great ideas surface – I just don’t have the coordination to do anything about it. By the way, I can’t stand the term, “brewski”. It just makes me cringe.

  18. centurion says:

    To accept this theory, you also have to accept that “it seemed like a good idea at the time” is a valid legal defense.