It's the perfect excuse to pour yourself another one - alcohol can sharpen the mind.

A study has found that men who enjoy a relaxing drink are actually better at solving brain teasers than those who are stone cold sober.

Cognitive psychologist Jennifer Wiley and her team from the University of Illinois in Chicago tested the effects of alcohol on 40 healthy young men. Half of them drank the equivalent of two pints of beer, or two medium glasses of wine. The rest remained sober.

As part of the study, participants were given three words and asked for one that linked them all. For instance, coin, quick and spoon - in this case the answer being silver.


The alcohol-fuelled group solved nearly 40 per cent more problems than the others and took an average of 12 seconds per question, compared to the 15.5 seconds needed by the sober subjects.

"We found at 0.07 blood alcohol, people were worse at working memory tasks, but they were better at creative problem solving tasks," Wiley told the Federation of Associations in Behavioural and Brain Sciences (FABBS).

"We have this assumption that being able to focus on one part of a problem or having a lot of expertise is better for problem solving, but that's not necessarily true," Wiley told FABBS.

"Innovation may happen when people are not so focused. Sometimes it's good to be distracted."

According to the journal of Consciousness and Cognition Wiley said: "We tested what happens when people are slightly merry - not when people drink to extreme.

"The bottom line is that we think being too focused can blind you to novel possibilities, and a broader more flexible state of attention is needed for creative solutions to emerge."

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