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The next great American novel could be a glass of Cabernet away.

Clara Olshansky
August 14, 2017

Wine has long been purported to cure what ails you. It's good for your heart and lowers your risk of getting colon cancer. When you drink it before bed, it can help you lose weight. It might even delay the onset of diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. But while usually we think of alcohol as impairing our judgment, in some cases it could actually enhance our ability to do better work. In fact, any alcoholic drink will do. Hang on—that doesn't mean that you should knock back five shots of tequila and then try to do some hardcore number crunching, but it does mean that a small glass of wine or small pint of beer can make you more creative.

A study by researchers from the Institute of Psychology at Austria's Graz University found that participants who'd had a small pint of beer scored higher on a test of creative problem-solving than participants who'd been given a non-alcoholic, placebo beer. Researcher showed participants a set of unrelated words, which the participants had to come up with unexpected connections between, also called a Remote Associations test. So basically, having a little bit of wine in you might help you come up with that out-of-the-box solution you weren't seeing before.

It's worth mentioning briefly that there was another test of creativity where participants who'd had the small pint of alcoholic beer didn't do any better on than those who'd had the placebo. In the Divergent Thinking test, where participants had to come up with creative uses for common objects, the two groups of participants scored pretty similarly. So, even in that case, the alcohol certainly didn't hurt but it didn't help, either.

We definitely don't recommend using this study as an excuse to down a bottle of rosé every time you're trying to solve a problem. Still, it's worth knowing that, if something's really stumping you, a glass of wine might give you the little edge you need to come up with that fresh idea you were looking for. Or at least take the edge off.