Coffee Enhances Focus and Problem-Solving Abilities, But Not Creativity
For most people, coffee is already part of their daily routine. A cup of coffee can be some people’s savior at work as the caffeine in coffee boosts one’s focus and problem-solving skills. However, studies revealed that consuming caffeine does not stimulate creativity.
One research from the University of Arkansas examined the effect of caffeine on a person’s ability to deliver two cognitive tasks: problem-solving and brainstorming. It was found that consuming caffeine enhanced the participants’ ability to solve problems in a quicker and more accurate manner. Contrarily, it did not have any effect on their’s creative thinking.
This is resulting from the fact that two thinking tasks demand the brain to work in entirely different ways: convergent thinking and divergent thinking.
Convergent thinking is a person’s ability to seek solutions to solve a problem. Control and focused attention are cognitive processes needed in convergent thinking. According to MedlinePlus, caffeine stimulates a person’s central nervous system. This results in a feeling of better focus, more energy, and alertness.
On the other hand, divergent thinking is a thought process that generates creative thinking. It does so as the brain comes up with novel ideas and interesting possibilities. Usually, this method occurs in a spontaneous, free-flowing way. This shows that divergent thinking requires lower attention levels and lower cognitive control, which is why some studies say that boredom makes you more creative.
The study gathered 88 participants with an average age of 21. Each participant had either a 200mg caffeine pill, which can be compared to one strong cup of coffee, or a placebo. Then, they were asked to answer 72 questions to challenge their problem-solving skills, as well as three open-ended creativity tasks. The goal was to test their convergent and divergent thinking, mood, and working memory.
It was found that caffeine has shown to boost convergent thinking, while it did not have any significant effect in terms of divergent thinking. Working memory was not affected, but the results found that participants reported feeling less sad and had a better mood.
This is another advantage of drinking coffee. Caffeine in coffee, indeed, boosts a person’s mood. This means it could be beneficial to consume caffeine before a brainstorming meeting, or when working on a task that requires creativity.
There are multiple science-backed ways to boost creativity. Going for a walk in nature can help in opening a person’s free flow of ideas. Studies have also shown that taking a nap can improve your focus and memory, much better than what the caffeine does.
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