Can Drinking Make You Smarter? Probably Not, But Science Says It Could Help You Learn A New Language
Everyone has friends who insist that they study or work better when they're just a wee bit buzzed, but then you have the fewer friends who actually pull it off, nailing assignments with a can of beer nearby. It seems totally counterintuitive that anyone could increase their performance by getting drunk, but it certainly makes you wonder: Can drinking make you smarter, ever?
The truth is it can, in moderation.
A new study proves that having a little bit of alcohol can help you tackle a recently learned language. Researchers at the University of Liverpool studied 50 German speakers who had recently learned Dutch, and gave half of them alcohol, while the control group remained sober. It should be noted that the amount of alcohol was minor, equating to a pint of five-percent beer. In other words, they didn't get them hammered and then ask them to speak Dutch.
After the alcohol set in, when both the control and the variable group began to speak in Dutch, it was extremely clear who was having an easier time speaking a new language. Those who drank alcohol were rated much better at speaking their newly learned language, especially in relation to pronunciation.
Those who had a pint of beer were more noticeably comfortable speaking a new language, in addition to just being plain better at it.
Before you sprint to the liquor store and buy a six-pack to help you learn Japanese, let's clarify what exactly the alcohol enabled within these research participants: a lowered inhibition.
We've all heard that line before, where some health teacher warns you that drinking will lower your inhibitions and lead you to do, ahem, things that you wouldn't normally do. Well, that idea goes both ways. The people in the study who consumed alcohol felt a little freer than those who didn't, and it gave them the ease to speak more comfortably in a non-native language, which improved their pronunciation.
As you can imagine, the scientists who ran the study are nervous to confirm that drinking makes you, well, better. One researcher, Jessica Werthmann, had this to say about the relationship between alcohol and intelligence:
We need to be cautious about the implications of these results until we know more about what causes the observed results. One possible mechanism could be the anxiety-reducing effect of alcohol. But more research is needed to test this.
Her colleague, Dr. Fritz Renner, threw in his two cents on the matter, too:
It is important to point out that participants in this study consumed a low dose of alcohol. Higher levels of alcohol consumption might not have beneficial effects on the pronunciation of a foreign language.
And that might just be the most important takeaway from this study.
You can only benefit from lowered inhibitions if you're not completely sloshed.
Alcohol has been proven in several studies to benefit people for similar reasons related to a lowered inhibition. For example, one study demonstrated that drinking alcohol can increase impulsivity, which can be a huge advantage during things like test-taking and brainstorming sessions, or any other type of activity where it benefits you to trust your instincts. Again, this is a study based in alcohol moderation, if you haven't noticed that trend.
Yet another study showed that alcohol can increase creativity and problem-solving skills. Slightly intoxicated individuals are more likely to solve critical thinking problems in both a shorter time and in a more insightful manner.
There's a clear correlation between all of these studies, and all of the advantages that moderate alcohol consumption can give you. A lowered inhibition, an increased sense of creativity, and heightened impulsivity all imply that you tend to feel more relaxed and less self-conscious when you drink. Turns out there are ways that you can put that to good use.
BRB, emailing my middle school health teacher and giving her a piece of my mind — and a link to these studies.