Tea, coffee, beer, and whiskey are common words that spring up in any conversation on planning, creativity, and decision-making. People who love the morning cup of Joe or a glass of wine at night will tell that caffeine and alcohol not only soothe you, but also make you think faster.
In this world, where you need to make random decisions every second of your life, thinking faster and sharper comes as an asset. But do these substances really boost your ability to make decisions and offer an instant solution for increased cognition? Let us find out.
Coffee and your Brain
Coffee is a prized drink among professionals in all types of companies, especially those in the knowledge industry. And for good reason, since coffee makes your brain alert almost instantaneously.
What happens is that coffee prevents adenosine from binding to its receptors by blocking them. Adenosine is one of the many neurotransmitters in the brain that form connections based on past knowledge. These connections come together to offer you original ideas when you face any problem. The job of adenosine is to alert your brain when you are low on energy, and as a result, these connections between neurons are slowed down. Coffee prevents the binding of these connections to adenosine receptors in little more than 5 minutes, thereby helping you to think clearly.
Alcohol and your Brain
A 2013 study published by The Drum shows that alcohol helps people come up with better ideas faster. The participants of the study were 18 advertising creative directors, who were divided into 2 groups on the basis of their experience. The first team was free to consume as much alcohol as they wanted, while the other team had to stay sober.
They were given a mock project and they had to come up with creative ideas in a couple of hours. The greatest number of ideas (and best ones) came from the alcohol group.
A case in point is David Ogilvy, who is considered the pioneer of modern advertising and a creative genius of his era. Many of his campaigns for Rolls Royce, Dove, and Shell (among other clients) still remain reference points for every copywriter worth his salt.
In 1955, Ogilvy wrote a letter to a certain Mr. Calt where he described his writing habits when creating advertising campaigns for clients. Here is one of those habits:
“If all else fails, I drink half a bottle of rum and play a Handel oratorio on the gramophone. This generally produces an uncontrollable gush of copy.”
As we have seen, alcohol and coffee have their benefits in helping you make random decisions. However, this does not give you the license to indulge in these substances. What happens with excessive consumption is that you develop resistance, i.e. the same amount of coffee or alcohol doesn’t cut it out for you anymore, and thus, you want to have more.
Ideally, coffee and alcohol should be used for backup when you feel mentally blocked. For all other times, rely on your gut, breathing, sleep, and our Random Decision Maker!