Essay on Effects of Alcohol Intoxication on Creative Cognition

Published: 2021-08-11 18:58:19
684 words
3 pages
6 min to read
Middlebury College
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In the art industry, some artists associate alcohol with creativity. The slogan, write/compose drunk, record sober is popular among artists who argue that their creativity increases when intoxicated with alcohol. In fact, a popular artist, Hunter Thompson, once said that "I'd hate to advocate drugs, alcohol or insanity to anyone but they've always worked for me." With other several artists such as Amy Winehouse and Whitney Houston who were devoted to alcohol, there is the assumption that intoxication enhances creativity. However, there exists scant empirical evidence to prove or disprove this assumption. The existing empirical evidence disputes the existence of a positive relationship between creativity and alcohol because the latter affects cognitive control which is essential for creative thought. Specifically, a study by Benedek, Panzierer, Jauk, and Neubauer (2017) was carried out to examine how alcohol affects executive control and the standard measures of creative cognition.

In their study, Benedek, Panzierer, Jauk, and Neubauer (2017) hypothesized that drinking alcohol affects cognitive control which in turn affects some aspects of creative cognition. The hypothesis appears to have been guided by previous studies which provide partial support and inconsistent evidence on the positive relationship between creative cognition and alcohol. The authors identified the causes of the inconsistencies as the lack of placebo control groups and emphasis on single indicators of creative potential. Typically, people overestimate their creativity and tend to become more creative when they perceive they have drunk alcohol. For this reason, Benedek, Panzierer, Jauk, and Neubauer (2017) understood the significance of dissociating expectation effects from pharmacological effects hence the focus on the impacts of drinking alcohol.

The experiment was conducted on 70 young adults, 46% male and 54% female, aged between 19 and 32 years. The population size was arrived at after an online screening process of 132 people. The screening process aimed at ensuring that only those who met the requirements (age, heart diseases, age, potential pregnancy, and Alcohol use disorders identification test) participated in the study. The experiment adopted a randomized placebo-controlled pretest-posttest design whereby the effect of alcohol was investigated. Beer was used as an intervention because it is highly popular among the participants and widely available in both non-alcoholic and alcoholic forms. In a pretest-posttest design, the conditions participants are noted before and after the treatment. Hence, the researcher observes the effects of treatment on a group. In this case, the design enabled the scholars to administer alcoholic beer to the treatment group and non-alcoholic beer to the placebo group. Afterwards, a posttest was carried out to assess the differences in performances.

The experiment results revealed that drinking low dosage of alcohol impaired executive control but increased creativity in problem solving and had no effects on divergent thinking ability. The researchers noted that the treatment group had a higher performance than the placebo group in the RAT hence ruling out the likelihood that expectation effects contributed to enhanced performance. Importantly, alcohol was noted to have no impact on divergent thinking performance. Also, the scholars established that alcohol intoxication does not affect creativity evaluation skills. These results led to the suggestion that high cognitive control is less important to creative problem solving than to divergent thinking.

The findings of the study concurred with the hypothesis that decrease in cognitive control could have positive effects on some aspects of creative cognition. This reinforces that understanding of the relationship between spontaneous and controlled processes in creative cognition and their significance in various types of creative cognition. However, the findings are specific and cannot be applied to argue that alcohol generally increases creativity. Only modest amounts of alcohol have positive effects on creativity while excessive consumption significantly reduces creativity. While phases of the cognitive process such as evaluation and implementation are affected negatively by a decrease in cognitive control, it is not clear which stages are impacted positively. Therefore, further studies and experiments should be conducted the specific phases of the cognitive process that are positively affected by the decline in cognitive control.



Benedek, M., Panzierer, L., Jauk, E., & Neubauer, A. C. (2017). Creativity on tap? Effects of alcohol intoxication on creative cognition. Consciousness and Cognition, 56, 128-134. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2017.06.020


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