Those Drunken Britons

Two interesting articles in the news recently might just explain why Britons — like Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde and Amy Winehouse — are so good at the arts. The first is a study which found out that drunk people are better at creative problem solving; the second is an article about how the British might have a drinking problem.

Oscar Wilde had a drinking problem


The study is relatively straightforward: they got college kids moderately drunk (0.075 BAC) and gave them Remote Association Tests, which are basically word puzzles with creative answers that you can’t really logic your way through. They obviously also did the same thing with sober students, and the drunk ones “solved more RAT items, in less time, and were more likely to perceive their solutions as the result of a sudden insight.” Their explanation is that alcohol impairs the frontal lobe of the brain, which is where our self-control is; the problem with self-control is that it stifles creativity: it tends to make you think ‘by the rules’ instead of considering solutions outside the box. Interestingly, being tired has a similar effect to being drunk.

But staying up all night is not what Amy Winehouse died of; no, she died because her blood alcohol concentration was 0.416%. And apparently she’s just one of many, many British binge drinkers: 80% of drinking in France, Italy and Spain takes place at dinner, but 80% of drinking in Britain is done elsewhere (i.e., bars). The amount of drinking generates all kinds of problems, not the least of which is billions of dollars of healthcare costs. The NPR article in question is about efforts by the British government to cut down on drinking by increasing the sin tax on alcohol — efforts which are being met with a loud “nooooo” by the shall we say “creative” population of Britain.

From Science Direct and NPR, via Wired

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