The stimulant caffeine is known to improve your focus, alertness and motor skills. Many people drink coffee and energy drinks for these reasons. A recent study by researchers at the University of Arkansas showed that caffeine does improve problem solving ability, but not creativity.
“In Western cultures, caffeine is stereotypically associated with creative occupations and lifestyles, from writers and their coffee to programmers and their energy drinks, and there’s more than a kernel of truth to these stereotypes,” wrote first author Darya Zabelina in their press release. The study was published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition.
Convergent vs Divergent Thinking
The researchers test what is called “convergent” and “divergent” thinking. The former is more of a linear type thinking, where one seeks a “correct” answer to a problem or question. Divergent thinking is generating new and novel ideas and approaches to solve a problem. Divergent thinking is associated more with creativity.
In the study, caffeine improve convergent thinking but not divergent thinking.
The study involved 80 participants. They were given a 200 mg caffeine pill, equivalent to a strong cup of coffee, or a placebo. They were then tested for convergent and divergent thinking.
The researchers also found that caffeine did not significantly improve memory but it did improve the participants’ mood.
“The 200mg enhanced problem solving significantly, but had no effect on creative thinking,” said Zabelina.
“It also didn’t make it worse, so keep drinking your coffee; it won’t interfere with these abilities.”