Brew's clues - Booze clues
August 2, 2004 7:15 AM   Subscribe

Coffee makes it harder to think clearly, while alcohol makes the mind sharper. (At least if you're British.)
posted by soyjoy (28 comments total)
At least if you're British

Valerie Lesk, of the International School for Advanced Studies in Italy.

Stephen Womble, from Trinity College, Dublin.

Sir Michael Marmot, a professor of epidemiology and public health at University College London.

one out of three ain't bad ;).
posted by johnnyboy at 7:22 AM on August 2, 2004

heh, I read the post as if it only worked for British people, as if they had special think-clearly-on-ale-gene.
posted by dabitch at 7:29 AM on August 2, 2004

johnnyboy: The parenthesis referred to the alcohol study, which was on British people. dabitch seemed to get it - perhaps you've had too much coffee already today.
posted by soyjoy at 8:03 AM on August 2, 2004

Well, the booze link is reg-only, but I expect that what it would show me is a test based on narrow-focus tasks. And that's something I've anecdotally observed for years: I focus better on narrow tasks, and perform better on certain types of task (especially verbal and creative tasks) if I've had a bit to drink.

Operative condition being "a bit".

Coffee, similarly, has long been known to be very effective at improving tasks where you're required to maintain attention on a lot of things at the same time. (Hence, perhaps, its popularity with "multitaskers"?) As far as cost:benefit goes, there's not much that beats caffeine...
posted by lodurr at 8:28 AM on August 2, 2004

I just...I...I don't know what to say.
posted by grateful at 8:30 AM on August 2, 2004

lodurr: Odd - I don't remember ever registering for the Telegraph - it came up as a regular link for me. Maybe I registered there on a morning I had a lot of coffee. At any rate, there's a shorter version here or here. Hope one of those works OK.
posted by soyjoy at 8:36 AM on August 2, 2004

Well that explains how I graduated college anyway.
posted by maggie at 8:36 AM on August 2, 2004

Beer for breakfast? WooHoo!

Great on corn flakes I hear.
posted by nofundy at 9:00 AM on August 2, 2004

I focus better on narrow tasks, and perform better on certain types of task (especially verbal and creative tasks) if I've had a bit to drink.

I can't play pool sober, but I think that has more to do with years of practice 'under the influence'...
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:07 AM on August 2, 2004

That coffee study is good news for me since I am terrible at recalling... um, what are they called? uh... oh, words. i had always thought it was alzheimers or something setting in 40 years early, but now I can blame it on the coffee. rock on.
posted by shotsy at 9:14 AM on August 2, 2004

Coffee does tend to improve focus, despite or perhaps because of the fact that coffee generally lowers the amount of oxygen to the brain (while orange juice, for example, raises it.)
posted by Shane at 9:42 AM on August 2, 2004

Cheap wine and cigarettes...breakfast of champions!
posted by airgirl at 9:52 AM on August 2, 2004

You jest. I used to live with a guy who lit his first cigarette before he got out of bed in the morning. And when he didn't have impressionable younger housemates around, his first beverage of the day was usually a Genny Cream or a PBR.

I used to do a great impression of him getting up in the morning. Feet over the edge of the the robe up off the arm in, hand into pocket, pull out lighter...other arm in, hand into pocket, pull out pack of Merits...smack the butt end of the pack against the heel of his opposite hand to knock loose a smoke, pull it out with his lips, flick the lighter...look of pure relaxation washing across face....
posted by lodurr at 10:32 AM on August 2, 2004

lodurr, you lived with jonmc?

posted by Vidiot at 11:20 AM on August 2, 2004

Cheap wine and cigarettes...breakfast of champions!
posted by airgirl at 9:52 AM PST on August 2

Is your real life name Ann Coulter? ;-)
posted by nofundy at 11:47 AM on August 2, 2004

Is it more common for a Brit to drink tea or coffee? Thought it was common having tea in the afternoon. Coffee came from the Orient to America{Seattle, Wa, gateway to the Orient}.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:06 PM on August 2, 2004

Does anyone ever factor educational level into these studies? It seems that (in the US at least, and I would think also in the UK) better-educated people tend to favor wine, which always does best in these "alcohol is good for you" studies. Couldn't it just be that bright people with good health tend to prefer wine to, say, Jagermeister? Or even to abstaining?
posted by occhiblu at 1:59 PM on August 2, 2004

I thought something along the same lines, occhiblu, but it does spell out: "Those who downed the equivalent of half a bottle of wine or two pints of beer a day scored best of all."

Do you get the same benefit if you save all the pints up for Saturday night each week?
posted by soyjoy at 2:21 PM on August 2, 2004

thomcatspike: coffee doesn't come from the orient, it comes from Ethiopia originally, apparently being first cultivated in the Yemen. In terms of comparison with other countries, the British still drink more tea per capita than any other western nation, though both tea and coffee consumption have been on the decrease here in recent years. The Scandinavians apparently get through more coffee than anyone else, though Americans drink more.
posted by biffa at 2:41 PM on August 2, 2004

My roommates and I conducted several tests to see if heavy drinking helped one play Mario Kart 64 better. Our results were... inconclusive. The study on whether you played better if you got mad and pulled someone else's controller out were corollary.
posted by graventy at 3:27 PM on August 2, 2004

thanks biffa
posted by thomcatspike at 3:44 PM on August 2, 2004

And if you combine the two, in the form of rye whiskey mixed with Jolt Cola, all the while popping chocolate covered coffee beans, you become a superhero.

...and here you thought I was bitten by a radioactive chicken or something!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:12 PM on August 2, 2004

Beer for breakfast? WooHoo!

Beer soup was the breakfast of choice for the working class in Britain during the early industrial revolution, although it is argued that it reduced productivity rather than raised it. Could workers have been overfocused?
posted by amauck at 6:32 PM on August 2, 2004

Well. I'm with grateful. This is counterintuitive.

What about those who can't drink? Is there a magic pill to deliver the increased-circulation benefits of alcohol without the drunkenness?
posted by Treeline at 10:37 PM on August 2, 2004

Feigenbaum said that - while making his great career-establishing discovery - he lived on cigarettes, coffee, red wine, and vitamin C.

He did, however, die young.
posted by troutfishing at 10:46 PM on August 2, 2004

no coffee for me old boy, the parenthesis are in a stand alone sentence whilst references to coffee and alcohol are contained within the preceding sentence, so I think perhaps the post could have been framed somewhat better.

*doffs pedant hat*
posted by johnnyboy at 3:40 AM on August 3, 2004

Agreed with lodurr. I find I'm better at doing cryptic crosswords after a couple or three pints: solutions to anagrams, for instance, seem to surface more readily.
posted by raygirvan at 4:34 AM on August 3, 2004

Yes, granted, it coulda been framed better... if I'd only had my two pints that morning!
posted by soyjoy at 6:50 AM on August 3, 2004

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