Many working-class individuals and students resort to a caffeine fix when “metal power” seems depleted in the course of daily routines. But research has suggested that this only boosts problem-solving skills, not creativity.
Caffeine, which is psychostimulant often used to boost mental alertness, can be found in foods like coffee, chocolate, some types of tea and nuts, energy drinks, among many others.
Researchers at the University of Arkansas, United States, suggest the stimulant doesn’t aid creativity unlike many have claimed.
To prove this, 80 people were given either a 200mg caffeine pill (equivalent to one coffee cup) or a placebo. They were then tested on standard measures for convergent, divergent thinking, working memory, and mood.
The study referred to convergent and divergent thinking, which were defined as seeking a solution to a precise problem or undertaking a quest for generating completely new ideas respectively.
In the findings, which were published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition, it was shown that caffeine did not affect working memory, although the subjects who took it reported feeling less sad.
While caffeine was shown to improve convergent thinking, consuming it had no significant impact on divergent thinking, which is more associated with creativity.
“The 200mg enhanced problem solving significantly, but 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 lead author Darya Zabelina.
“In Western cultures, caffeine is stereotypically associated with creative occupations and lifestyles, from writers and their coffee to programmers and their energy drinks. There’s more than a kernel of truth to these stereotypes.”