Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Hot Rum Cow Issue 5 - Science or Ficton?

Continuing our quest to uncover all things science or fiction, we’ve taken a creative turn. We’ve all done it, gone out on the lash and produced the best piece of work to date in a drunken haze. But, the question is does that extra pint actually make you more creative?

“I’m not a writer with a drinking problem, I’m a drinker with a writing problem!” – Brendan Behan
Creativity and alcohol have been said to go hand in hand for centuries. From the likes of Geoffrey Chaucer to the late Amy Winehouse alcohol presently stood by their side to inspire. But, was it the alcohol that unearthed such talents?

The University of Illinois conducted a study in 2012 to find the answer on every hopeful’s lips – does a tipple get the juices flowing? And, find out it did.

The study, Uncorking the muse, set vodka to the test on twenty willing men; volunteers were given Cape Cods (aka, the humble vodka-cranberry) until their blood alcohol level reached 0.75, just below the legal limit. Joined by twenty sober men, the test began.       

Tests subjects were set a Remote Association Test, or to everyone else, a word association test, for example: name the word best paired with “peach,” “arm” and “tar.” The answer? “Pit.” It took on average for the sober subjects 15 seconds to answer the riddle, whereas in contrast it took 11.5 seconds for those drinking to solve.                 

Researchers found having that drink to inspire the senses relaxes the brain, allowing less focus on attention, and therefore connections amongst related ideas made easier. Aka, alcohol does get those creative juices flowing.*

Co-author of the study, Jennifer Wiley of Illinois University, said: “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.”

“That’s not necessarily true. Innovation may happen when people are no so focused. Sometimes it’s good to be distracted.”

*Note: This study was not carried out on women, or over the legal limit. Results may vary.

If one study isn’t enough for you, Dave Birss, Contributing Editor of The Drum, with the aid of John Jessup put their similar theory to the test. A night fuelled through Guinness saw Dave pick up a ‘Best Copy Award.’ Could this spur on other creative award winners? Thus ‘The Newt/Judge Experiment’ was born.

Their hypothesis: Booze frees up thinking as alcohol lowers inhibition. Further consumption weakens thought processes, therefore reducing the quality of work produced.  

A collective of 18 creative advertisers were separated into two groups. Nine sober, and the other nine fuelled with as much booze as they could take. During the study, two of the drinking subjects were sent home from over-consumption. There really were no limits.

Once the effects took hold, each team were given three hours to work on an advertisement brief. The brief? Combatting binge drinking, oh, the irony.

The results confirmed it. The drinkers proved more productive creating 59 ideas, even with two people down. Whereas, the sober group managed a lesser 48 in total. Mathematically speaking this meant that the production levels of the drinkers were 23% higher than the sober subjects.

The top 10 ideas were chosen, drawn up, presented to top creative directors and ranked again. Four of the top five ideas were that from the drinkers, and four of the bottom five ideas were of the sober subjects.

There you have it, even science says so, alcohol really does inspire our inner creative mind.

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