Beer – The Smarter Drink

According to a misquoted Ben Franklin, beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. New research proves He wants us to be smarter, too.

A new study, published in Consciousness and Cognition, claims that moderate alcohol consumption improves problem-solving abilities. The authors of the study evaluated the problem solving skills of 40 men: 20 who has been given enough beer to reach a blood alcohol level of 0.075 and 20 who had received no alcohol prior to the test. The problem-solving skills were tested using the Remote Associates Test, in which participants are provided 3 words and asked to think of a fourth that fits the pattern. (“Memory” goes with “elephant-lapse-vivid”; “Book” goes with “shelf-end-read.”)

Surprisingly, the men who drank beer first solved 40% more problems than their sober counterparts. They also finished the tests faster (12 seconds vs. 15.5 seconds).

At the blood alcohol levels reached in this study, working memory is impaired, as is reaction time, judgment, balance, speech, and vision. However, creativity and innovation may be improved. The authors claim that “thinking outside the box” might occur more easily when people are slightly distracted and not focused, like when they’ve had a few drinks. Sometimes, the most creative juices flow when people stop over-thinking and they are relaxed and unfocused.

This study does not claim that people with problems to solve should head to the pub; heavy alcohol consumption does impose serious long-term social, physical, and psychological consequences. But, moderate alcohol consumption might actually have some benefits. Several studies have recently evaluated the protective effects of alcohol on cognition, especially in the elderly. Though the mechanisms are unclear, low to moderate alcohol consumption over the course of one’s life appears to protect against cognitive decline and dementia and provide cardiovascular benefits. (Listen up, teetotalers!)

Research has yet to conclude that imbibing an alcoholic beverage makes you funnier, better looking, and a superior dancer. (Your friends will have to be the judge.)


Bartley PC, & Rezvani AH (2012). Alcohol and Cognition – Consideration of Age of Initiation, Usage Patterns and Gender: A Brief Review. Current drug abuse reviews PMID: 22455507

Jarosz AF, Colflesh GJ, & Wiley J (2012). Uncorking the muse: alcohol intoxication facilitates creative problem solving. Consciousness and cognition, 21 (1), 487-93 PMID: 22285424

Kim JW, Lee DY, Lee BC, Jung MH, Kim H, Choi YS, & Choi IG (2012). Alcohol and cognition in the elderly: a review. Psychiatry investigation, 9 (1), 8-16 PMID: 22396679

Panza F, Frisardi V, Seripa D, Logroscino G, Santamato A, Imbimbo BP, Scafato E, Pilotto A, & Solfrizzi V (2012). Alcohol consumption in mild cognitive impairment and dementia: harmful or neuroprotective? International journal of geriatric psychiatry PMID: 22396249

Image via Roman Sigaev / Shutterstock.

Jennifer Gibson, PharmD

Jennifer Gibson, PharmD, is a practicing clinical pharmacist and medical writer/editor with experience in researching and preparing scientific publications, developing public relations materials, creating educational resources and presentations, and editing technical manuscripts. She is the owner of Excalibur Scientific, LLC.
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