A study out of the Mississippi State University suggests that people with bodily alcohol levels at or near the legal limit are actually more creative. According to a 2018 article in the Harvard Business Review, test subjects who imbibed in alcohol were able to give more correct answers to word problems and also were able to arrive at their solutions more quickly. An example of a word problem might be: duck, dollar, fold. The correct answer was “bill.” Another example would be “peach, arm, tar,” with the correct answer being “pit.”
The study consisted of researchers giving subjects 3 vodka drinks and then testing their breath using a portable breath testing device. Once the subjects got to a .075, they were given a 15-question word association test. Drinking subjects were able to arrive at correct answers more frequently and more quickly than their non-drinking counterparts. They also believed that their answers came as a sudden insight, like a light bulb going off above their heads. This is the kind of insight that an advertising executive might need to think outside the box., which might explain Don Draper’s drinking habits.
According to Psychology Today, the results of this study might be explained by brain science. It appears that alcohol reduces a person’s working memory and focus. These two work in unison to assure that we are able to filter out unnecessary information, and focus on what we think is important. Alcohol tends to reduce these abilities and so there appears to be a benefit in the drinker’s ability to engage in creative problem-solving.
Because this is only one limited study, many questions remain unanswered and may be susceptible to future research. For example, how does prolonged drinking impact creativity? How do different alcohol levels impact creativity and is there a diminishment in the impact of alcohol and creativity for regular users of alcohol?
Nevertheless, the study is an interesting one, and might explain on the famous drunk driving arrestee could manage to sign the entire Queen song “Bohemian Rhapsody” in the back of a patrol vehicle after being arrested for drunk driving!