Does moderate drinking cause fuzzy thinking?
This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, pleading the fifth.
But University of Illinois psychologists say moderate drinking facilitates creative problem-solving. In their study, 20 male social drinkers drank a vodka-cranberry cocktail while watching the movie Ratatouille.
Don't worry, the researchers were armed with breathalyzers, and the alcohol servings were weight-adjusted so subjects stayed just below the legal intoxication limit.
Another 20 men watched the movie, but didn't get a cocktail or a snack. Rough.
Partway through, both groups took a word-association test. You're given three words and have to find a fourth that makes a two-word phrase with the others. So if the words are "peach," "arm," and "tar"? The answer is "pit."
How'd the guys do? On average, teetotalers got six right answers, while drinkers got nine. Drinkers were also faster on average, answering in eleven seconds to teetotalers' fifteen.
The team thinks drinking relaxes people's attention, letting them be less focused and so open to more ideas.
Like thinking vodka goes with ratatouille. Puh-lease! It's a red-wine dish!
The Loh Down on Science, online, at lohdown.org. Produced by 89.3 KPCC and the California Institute of Technology, and made possible by TIAA-CREF.
Follow us on Twitter at LohDown.