caustic beer
A man who suffered severe burns after drinking tainted beer at a casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, was awarded $750,000 by a jury, Sept.15, 2017. Getty Images

At any point during the day, if you feel like you are running low on creative juices or facing a mental block, you might want to grab a pint of beer so your brain gets running again.

According to a new study published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition, consumption of a low amount of alcohol facilitated problem-solving skills and boosted creative thinking.

The Austrian study selected 70 volunteers between the ages of 19 and 32 and gave some of them a bottle of normal beer while the others were given a non-alcoholic beer. The participants were not able to differentiate between the both.

Later, when the participants were given tasks related to word associations— like linking the words “swiss”, “blue” and “cake”— it was found that those who had consumed the alcoholic beer were more likely to make the guess that “cheese” was the correct linking word.

The set of alcoholic beer drinkers were also better at a task involving creative thinking which required them to suggest alternative uses for a tyre. The answer was judged to be more creative if it was ‘a lampshade’ and considered as less creative if someone answered ‘a swing’.

Reports quoted the study’s lead author Dr. Mathias Benedek as saying: "We found that a small drink can indeed help with certain aspects of creativity.” He added: "So, it might well work for someone who is sitting down to do creative writing or brainstorming ideas in a boardroom.”

However, a third test asking them to follow a list of letters also showed that those who consumed alcohol had fewer concentration levels and cognitive control. The participants, in this case, had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.03 percent—the equivalent of a small glass of wine and slightly less than a pint of beer for men and half the amount in women.

The paper suggested two reasons why this can happen. The first was that being that when you are really concentrating on solving a problem your mind gets stuck on one way of addressing it and you become fixated with the approach. However, drinking alcohol renders it more difficult to keep all the necessary parameters of the task in mind. This also means that you can approach the issue from another direction thereby boosting creative thought.

Another theory put forward is that despite distracting you from the central task at hand, alcohol “allows you tap into your unconscious mind and find alternative solutions.”

Benedek was quoted as saying: "While many activities usually benefit from high cognitive control, some may actually suffer from too much focus. Alcohol may reduce fixation effects by loosening the focus of attention. Thereby, alcohol may facilitate a broader associative search and the effective solving of creative tasks that are prone to fixation effects.”

The researchers also emphasized that while drinking a pint of beer could help boost creativity and clarity, consuming more than that may have negative consequences for the same factors.

“We wanted to do this study because alcohol is so linked with creativity and great writers like Ernest Hemingway. Previous research has found almost half of the great writers had a history of drinking," he told the Daily Mail.