Does alcohol fuel creativity?

Does alcohol fuel creativity?

We all know the dangers of alcohol, but is there any truth to the cliche of a drunk writer or painter being better than a sober one? Can inspiration be found in a bottle?

In my personal experience, I think people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol create despite, not because of, their addiction. (And they are no fun to work with!) However, a new study says that limited drinking might spur new ideas by making you more flexible.

We approach problems with fixed ideas about the solution, but alcohol loosens that fixation and opens us up to trying new things. Anyone who has tried to do a task as simple as putting on shoes while drunk will know that you have to rethink each step as you do it and you still might end up with your shoes on the wrong feet.

So, the study says, if you are stuck in the creative process, a glass of merlot may be just what you need to come up with a new solution to the problem facing you. It might not be a good idea, but it will be a complete rethink instead of a retread.

Here’s the relevant piece of the conclusion:

Alcohol may particularly play a role in mitigating fixation effects. In creative problem solving, problems can often only be solved after a restructuring of the problem representation. When initial solution attempts get on the wrong track, this can cause blocks to immediate problem solving, which is known as mental fixation ( Smith & Blankenship, 1991). These fixations typically fade with time, which is considered a central mechanism behind incubation effects ( Storm and Koppel, 2012 ;  Vul and Pashler, 2007). In a similar way, alcohol may reduce fixation effects by loosening the focus of attention and hence impeding the building and maintenance of dominant but inappropriate mental representations. Thereby, alcohol may facilitate a broader associative search and the effective solving of creative tasks that are prone to fixation effects.

There are lots of other ways to shake yourself out of this! Check out our post that gives you five ways to shake your creative doldrums! 

A word of warning, alcohol will not be helpful in doing the actual hard work of a project and as an artist you have a lot of fixed ideas that are good and helpful. In other words, putting your shoes on the wrong feet might be creative, but it isn’t a good idea long term.


Using What You Already Have – PlayPumps

In some parts of the world, getting water to people is a huge problem. The water is usually a fair distance away from the village and possibly contaminated. Even though there is water under the ground, they don’t have the electricity or full necessary to pump it to the surface. PlayPumps came up with an amazingly clever solution. Instead of trying to lug a big diesel engine in constant need of fuel to each village, they looked for possible sources of energy that were already there.  They decided to use the energy of children’s play to collect water.

It’s a good reminder to creative folks, instead of introducing a new element to solve a problem, have you really used what’s already there?

The Science of Creativity: How Do I Tell If I’m Creative?

StoryRobot sent me this article from Scientific American that describes current, well 2005 current, scientific thinking about creativity. It covers a lot of ground, talking about left brain/right brain component, how intelligence and creativity are unconnected and how to test for creativity.

Here are the criteria they list as indicators of creativity:

Ideational fluency. The number of ideas, sentences and associations a person can think of when presented with a word.

Variety and flexibility. The diversity of different solutions a
person can find when asked to explore the possible uses of, say, a
newspaper or a paper clip.

Originality. The ability to develop potential solutions other people do not reach.

Elaboration. The skill to formulate an idea, expand on it, then work it into a concrete solution.

Problem sensitivity. The ability to recognize the central challenge within a task, as well as the difficulties associated with it.

Redefinition. The capacity to view a known problem in a completely different light.

That’s a great list. The exercises and tips I post are usually aimed at a way to trick your brain into either letting the left brain run free or in developing one or more of the traits on this list.

The one thing they leave off of this list is actually doing something with your creative impulses. Creation and creativity are defined by action. You can say someone is smart even if they never do anything with it. Can you call someone creative who never creates anything?

Are there any indicators you would add to the list?

Link to article

Scientific Research That Proves Artists See The World Differently


From Cognitive Daily an article about how we see the world. They report on a study that tracked the eye movement of two groups, artists and psychologists, as they looked at photographs. The psychologists tended to look only at the object that was the focus of the picture while the artists tended to look at the picture as a whole.

The conclusion:

So why do artists look at pictures — especially non-abstract pictures — differently from non-artists? Vogt and Magnussen argue that it comes down to training: artists have learned to identify the real details of a picture, not just the ones that are immediately most salient to the perceptual system, which is naturally disposed to focusing on objects and faces.

A good article followed by interesting discussion in the comment section.

Read Article

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