Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Have a beer, write a book
We all know that drinking beer can make men do stupid things. The classic examples are pinching the bottoms of unfamiliar women in public places and driving drunk, which is why we have laws against sexual assault and Alert teams and breathalyzer units to help keep the roads safe for more temperate motorists and pedestrians. There are even laws against drunken pedestrianism, although they seem to be rarely enforced.
In a curious contradiction, however, it now appears that drinking beer can make men smarter, at least according to recent research. That does not mean it makes them better drivers. Trust me, it doesn't. What it does mean is that men who have thrown back a couple of pints of lager -- or pilsner, if that's your preference -- think more imaginatively than men who are stone-cold sober.
When you think about this, you realize it is something most of us always intuitively knew -- a couple of beer can be, for better or worse, a huge creative stimulus.
Researchers at the University of Illinois report that men who drank two pints of beer were 40 per cent more successful at solving "brain-teaser" problems -- things like word-association games -- than their sober counterparts. Their imaginations, it seems, ran a little more freely when fuelled with a little alcohol.
It also, according to the researchers, helps explain how so many successful writers can be alcoholics -- the beer and the booze free up their creativity.
This is not an argument for drinking and it is definitely not an argument for having a few, getting behind the wheel and imagining you are an Indy race-car driver. Stay home and write a book instead.
What it does indicate is the extraordinary creativity of the human mind, that it is not just a practical thing that can learn how to do the plumbing or shingle the roof or write for a newspaper -- it is infinitely creative if we can just learn how to let it run free, with beer or without it.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 21, 2012 j2
(1 of 23 articles for this week)