Grog is great, says workplace research

by Caitlin Nobes13 Apr 2012

Should you be serving wine, beer or even vodka at brain-storming meetings to improve results? A University of Illinois study says yes.

The aptly named study, Uncorking the Muse, found people are faster and better at problem-solving after a couple of drinks. Research participants drank two vodka-cranberry juice cocktails and ate food over an hour and a half period before being given 15 word-association puzzles to solve.

The tipsy group averaged nine correct answers and took 11.5 seconds to solve each puzzle. Sober volunteers took an average of 15.2 seconds to solve just six of the puzzles. “Intoxicated individuals solved more items, in less time, and were more likely to perceive their solutions as the result of a sudden insight,” psychology professor Jennifer Wiley said.

“The bottom line is that we think being too focused can blind you to novel possibilities, and a broader, more diffuse or more flexible attentional state may be needed for creative solutions to emerge,” she added. So perhaps next time our better halves chastise us for coming home the worse for wear after office drinks, we can righteously state we were simply “trying to achieve a broader, more diffuse and more flexible attentional state”?

But the study stops well short of encouraging excessive drinking on the job, or otherwise. “We tested what happens when people are tipsy, not when people drank to extreme. There could be no argument from these findings that drinking excessively would have the same effects,” Wiley commented.

Cheers to all those readers who no longer have to hide the whisky bottle in their filing cabinet.

But before you reach for your glass, remember that horror stories abound and some research revealed the following tales:

  • “One time our company party got out of hand in a Greek restaurant. It ended with the human resources manager hitting the MD over the head with a plate, not realising that you are supposed to use specially supplied plates for this - I'm sure he woke up with a headache the next day....” - Carlos

  • “At a company event I, as a senior manager, decided to do the trick of whipping a table cloth out from under a load of glasses after I had consumed a fair amount and overlooked the fact that nearly all of the glasses on the table were full! A wet and sticky evening was had by many.” - Peter

  • “A few years ago after several beers at work, a rather large mate of mine decided to photocopy his ample backside. It all started well enough, but shortly after pressing the green button, he heard an alarming crack. Before he could get off, the entire glass cover broke trapping him inside the innards of the photocopier. Despite the fact that he had several sharp shards of glass sticking into him, he chuckled quite happily as I called for an ambulance to help pry him out.” - James 

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  • by Madeleine 20/04/2012 1:58:42 PM

    Some things don't change. There may well be the creative side as a result of drinking - all good so far. Bad side - driving home under the influence and trying to outrun an intoxicated, amourous co-worker in a lift. Not so funny.