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Can alcohol make men smarter? Study suggests yes


(CBS News) Men, for your next date, you might want to suggest a casual meeting at a local bar or pub. Recent research shows that men become better at creative problem solving after they consume alcohol.

Although some people believe that alcohol can inhibit your normal thinking processes, the study from the University of Illinois showed that the additional drinks allowed for more innovative answers that, in the end, equaled more correct answers on a brain teaser test.

"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," Jennifer Wiley, a psychologist at the University of Illinois who co-authored the study, explained in a new commentary on the Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences (FABBS) site. "But that's not necessarily true. Innovation may happen when people are not so focused."

In the study, originally published online in an earlier 2012 issue of Consciousness and Cognition, Wiley and her team tested 40 social drinkers. Half of the subjects were told to watch an animated movie while being given snacks and enough vodka cranberry drinks to give them a blood alcohol level of 0.075, just below the legal limit of 0.08. The other group had to watch the same movie without any treats.

Then, everyone was asked to finish problem-solving brain teasers. Tests included seeing a group of words and finding a fourth word that would fit with the previous words. One question asked what word works with peach, arm and tar. Another asked which word matched with blue, cottage and Swiss. (If you're stumped, the answers are at the bottom of the story.)

Astonishingly, those in the drinking group averaged nine correct questions to the six answers correct by the non-drinking group. It also took drunk men 11.5 seconds to answer a question, whereas non-drunk men needed 15.2 seconds to think. Both groups had comparable results on a similar exam before the alcohol consumption began.

It's important to note that their level of alcohol consumption was below the legal limit, and it worked on creative problems but not on working memory problems. According to Wiley, alcohol improves creative memory by decreasing working memory, which is the ability to remember one thing while you're thinking of something else.

Said Wiley, "Sometimes it's good to be distracted."

So men, on that next date, you may want to drink up, but not too much - and hope that she doesn't ask if you remember her name.

(Answers to brain teasers: Pit; Cheese)
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