How caffeine can cramp creativity

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Caffeine can boost energy, reduce fatigue, and increase short term concentration and problem solving skills. However, creativity is haboured in a less focused mind:

Creative insights and imaginative solutions often occur when we stop working on a particular problem and let our mind move on to something unrelated. In one recent study, participants showed marked improvements on a task requiring creative thought—thinking of alternative uses for a common object, such as a newspaper—after they had engaged in a different, undemanding task that facilitated mind wandering. The more their mind wandered when they stepped away, the better they fared at being creative. In fact, the benefit was not seen at all when the subjects engaged in an unrelated but demanding task.

In other words, a break in intense concentration may increase unconscious associative processing. That, in turn, allows us to perceive connections that we would otherwise miss. Letting our minds wander may also increase communication between the brain’s default mode network—the parts of our brain that are more active when we’re at rest—and its executive areas, which are used in so-called higher reasoning and decision-making functions. These two regions become activated right before we solve problems of insight. Caffeine prevents our focus from becoming too diffuse; it instead hones our attention in a hyper-vigilant fashion.

 

Konnikova, Maria. “How Caffeine Can Cramp Creativity”, The New Yorker, 17 June 2013. Accessed 19 June 2013.

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