How Caffeine Can Cramp Creativity

From the New Yorker:

“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.”

When I was studying for my finals about two weeks ago, I became a coffee junkie. Of course, I was too lazy to walk to the Starbucks that was a block away for my fix. Instead I made instant coffee in the comfort of my own kitchen.

The thing about instant coffee is that when you put in the specified amount, the flavor is incredibly weak. So I decided to keep putting in the powder until the drink tasted almost like coffee. The only problem was that by the time the coffee reached an acceptable flavor, I had put in way too much powder. It was over-caffeinated like hell.

The following few days were spent in a caffeine induce frenzy of stimulation and studying. I would feel fine for a few hours and would get a lot of work done, then I would get too nervous and hyper to do anything productive. After that came the crash, bringing with it fatigue, headaches, nausea, and even more anxiety. I’d then go to bed and do the same thing in the morning.

As for creativity, I definitely noticed a drop. On caffeine I was able to focus more on the analytical side of my work and I was able to be productive when it came to subjects like statistics and economics. However when I needed to write my paper, I found that mixing in some Irish whiskey into my coffee seemed to do the trick. I guess it varies from person to person.

Moral of the story: Instant coffee is a no-no.


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