Caffeine isn’t helpful when it comes to sparking creativity, study finds

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Researchers say its benefits are best used for solving specific problems

A common stereotype of writers, actors, and other creative types is that they tend to consume a lot of coffee and other caffeinated beverages. But while those drinks might help keep people focused and engaged, a new study suggests that it won’t necessarily spark more creativity.

Researchers from the University of Arkansas came to that conclusion after testing the effects of caffeine on 80 volunteers. They noted that although the caffeine stereotype attributed to creators is probably earned, it probably doesn’t help as much as most people might think. 

“Caffeine had no significant effects on creative generation or on working memory,” the team said.

Doesn’t help, but doesn’t hurt either

For the purposes of the study, the 80 participants were randomly given either a placebo or a 200 mg caffeine pill that was meant to simulate a strong cup of coffee. After taking the pill, each person was asked to complete various tasks that tested their convergent (problem-solving) or divergent (creative generation) thinking. 

While problem solving was “significantly boosted” in those who received the caffeine pill, the researchers found that these participants did not score any better on measures of creativity. But in good news for coffee lovers, they didn’t score any worse than the placebo takers either.

“[The 200 mg caffeine pill] had no effect on creative thinking. It also didn’t make it worse, so keep drinking your coffee; it won’t interfere with these abilities,” said study first author Darya Zabelina. 

The full study has been published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition.

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