CHICAGO—Cheers to another reason to indulge in a pint or two of beer—it makes you smarter, according to a new study published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition. The findings suggest men who consume a couple of beers are better at solving brain teasers compared to men who are completely sober.
Lead researcher Jennifer Wiley, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Illinois in Chicago, said alcohol enhances creative problem solving by reducing our ability to focus our attention on something. In other words, it diminishes what scientists refer to as our working memory capacity, or WMC.
Her research team tested 40 men to investigate the effects of alcohol consumption on creative problem solving tasks. The men participated in bar game in which they were given three words and then asked to complete the pattern with a fourth word. For example, the word "cheese" would fit with worlds like "blue," "cottage" or "Swiss." Half the subjects were given two pints of beer; the other half were given nothing.
Results showed those who drank beer solved 40% more of the problems, and the completed their problems an average of 3.5 seconds faster compared to those who did not drink alcohol.
“We have this assumption, that being able to focus on one part of a problem or having a lot of expertise is better for problem solving," Wiley said. “But that’s not necessarily true. Innovation may happen when people are not so focused. Sometimes it’s good to be distracted."
Need another reason for men to drink beer? A natural compound derived from hops, xanthohumol, was shown to block the effects of the male hormone testosterone, demonstrating its potential for the prevention of prostate cancer. Moderate beer consumption also has been found to help prevent osteoporosis because it is rich in dietary silicon, a key ingredient for increasing bone mineral density.