Does Coffee Hurt Creativity?

Say it ain’t so.

I’m way too far down the I-need-coffee-before-I-can-think-straight-and-work-at-all cycle of dependency to give this much thought as a practical, actionable matter: but it is still interesting.

The research takes two things I already believe to be true about creativity.

First, you need to let your mind wander and play with ideas in order to make new connections. Coffee is all about focus.

Second, sleep is important to consolidate those new thoughts, ideas and memories. Coffee interferes with sleep.

And of course there’s that whole annoying placebo effect thing.

In a 2011 study at the University of East London, a group of psychologists examined the effects of caffeine on problem-solving ability and emotional responses. In the double-blind study, eighty-eight habitual coffee drinkers were given cups of caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee at random. Half were told that they were receiving regular coffee, and half were informed that they were given decaf.

Each participant then completed tasks that measured things like reaction time, self-control, reward motivation, and mood. In the Stroop task, which measures reaction time, improved accuracy was observed in subjects who believed they had ingested caffeinated coffee, even if they had only consumed decaf. Subjects who received caffeine and were told they were drinking decaf did not show an improved reaction time.

Read the whole article: Does Coffee Curb Creativity? {andrew sullivan}.

Read more on coffee {this blog}.

Friday Link List

1. How Green Is Telecommuting? {andrew sullivan}.

I doubt the premise of this article based on my personal experience, but it’s an interesting observation, if true:

It might … be that, contrary to some early expectations, telecommuting is not necessarily good for the environment. A 2011 article in the Annals of Regional Science found that, on average, telecommuters end up putting in more travel—on both nonwork-and work-related trips—than those who don’t telecommute. In other words, that they don’t drive to work doesn’t mean that they drive less overall. As Pengyu Zhu, the article’s author, put it, “the hopes of planners and policymakers who expected the promotion of telecommuting programs to substitute for face-to-face interactions and thus reduce traditional travels remains largely unmet.”

I hardly ever drive my car save for my commute to work, so my ability to telecommute saves me two long drives every week. I have a hunch that those who telecommute and end up driving the the same amount (if not more) are also living typical suburban lives. A similar study could be done across all non-urban dwellers who drive to work whether or not they telecommute. Suburbanites don’t just drive to work, they also shop and pick up the kids from school, too.


2. Caffeinated Seas Found off U.S. Pacific Northwest {national geographic; via stephen marche}.

The Pacific Northwest may be the epicenter of U.S. coffee culture, and now a new study shows the region’s elevated caffeine levels don’t stop at the shoreline.

The discovery of caffeine pollution in the Pacific Ocean off Oregon is further evidence that contaminants in human waste are entering natural water systems, with unknown consequences for wildlife and humans alike, experts say.


3. In Praise of Urban Density {andrew sullivan}.

The denser the city, the more productive, efficient and powerful it becomes. The theoretical physicists, Luis Bettencourt and Geoffrey West calculated that if the population of a city is doubled, average wages go up by 15%, as do other measures of productivity, like patents per capita. Economic output of a city of 10 million people will be 15-20% higher than that of two cities of 5 million people. Incomes are on average five times higher in urbanised countries with a largely rural population. And at the same time, resource use and carbon emissions plummet by 15% for every doubling in density, because of more efficient use of infrastructure and better use of public transportation.


I got my first order of Arizona-based Kickstarter-backed artisan-coffee subscription service MistoBox last week. My fave was the Ethiopian Sidamo Ardi. A cool service if you’re looking to find new roasters or familiarize yourself with different regions and roasts.

For $fifteen you get four samples (enough for about eight cups) of coffee from roasters around the country. (Check their facebook page for a $five-for-your-first-month offer.)