Earlier this month, science finally got around to confirming what tortured artists have known for centuries: Intoxication inspires creativity. In a study published in the March issue of Consciousness and Cognition, researchers examined "the effects of alcohol intoxication on creative problem solving" by getting 40 young men moderately boozed up and then subjecting them to a word association test.
The subjects were fed a meal of bagels calibrated to their weight so that they would subsequently reach equal levels of drunkenness. Then—oh, science, how we love you!—they watched Ratatouille while drinking vodka-and-cranberry cocktails.
An hour into the movie, the subjects (whose blood alcohol content was just under the legal limit) took the word association test, and the researchers discovered that the tipsy participants did better than their sober counterparts. The moderately soused correctly answered 58 percent of the questions, while the sober answered only 42 percent correctly, leading the scientists to conclude that inebriation improved performance by about 30 percent.
The reason for the discrepancy, the researchers wrote, may be that alcohol consumption lessens executive function, or the ability to control one's attention. They also hastened to add that their findings did not have any correlation to extreme drinking, dashing the dreams of binge-drinking college students everywhere. For the rest of us, though, the study carries a faint glimmer of hope for the return of Mad Men-era office wet bars, or at least an excellent excuse to give your boss the next time you're caught sipping from that flask hidden in your desk drawer.
Photo by Christopher Rochelle / CHOW.com