Percolating Ideas: The Effects of Caffeine on Creative Thinking and Problem Solving

D L Zabelina & P J Silvia, 2020.
Conscious Cognition, Volume 79.
February 23, 2020


Caffeine is the most widely consumed psychotropic drug in the world, with numerous studies documenting the effects of caffeine on people’s alertness, vigilance, mood, concentration, and attentional focus. The effects of caffeine on creative thinking, however, remain unknown. In a randomized placebo-controlled between-subject double-blind design the present study investigated the effect of moderate caffeine consumption on creative problem solving (i.e., convergent thinking) and creative idea generation (i.e., divergent thinking). We found that participants who consumed 200 mg of caffeine (approximately one 12 oz cup of coffee, n = 44), compared to those in the placebo condition (n = 44), showed significantly enhanced problem-solving abilities. Caffeine had no significant effects on creative generation or on working memory. The effects remained after controlling for participants’ caffeine expectancies, whether they believed they consumed caffeine or a placebo, and changes in mood. Possible mechanisms and future directions are discussed.


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