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Expecting Innovation: Psychoactive Drug Primes and the Generation of Creative Solutions

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Many individuals expect that alcohol and drug consumption will enhance creativity. The present studies tested whether substance related primes would influence creative performance for individuals who possessed creativity-related substance expectancies. Participants (n = 566) were briefly exposed to stimuli related to psychoactive substances (alcohol, for Study 1, Sample 1, and Study 2; and marijuana, for Study 1, Sample 2) or neutral stimuli. Participants in Study 1 then completed a creative problem-solving task, while participants in Study 2 completed a divergent thinking task or a task unrelated to creative problem solving. The results of Study 1 revealed that exposure to the experimental stimuli enhanced performance on the creative problem-solving task for those who expected the corresponding substance would trigger creative functioning. In a conceptual replication, Study 2 showed that participants exposed to alcohol cues performed better on a divergent thinking task if they expected alcohol to enhance creativity. It is important to note that this same interaction did not influence performance on measures unrelated to creative problem solving, suggesting that the activation of creativity-related expectancies influenced creative performance, specifically. These findings highlight the importance of assessing expectancies when examining pharmacological effects of alcohol and marijuana. Future directions and implications for substance-related interventions are discussed.

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... Bourassa and Vaugeois (2001) found that marijuana had no positive effects on divergent thinking in occasional users, reduced performance in regular users, but interestingly, the group that thought they received marijuana and reported being "high" scored better on divergent thinking tests compared to the other groups. Hicks, Pedersen, Friedman, and McCarthy (2011) tested this possibility without having participants take any drug. In the first study, people in two samples completed a lexical-decision task where they were primed with alcohol-related words or neutral words (Sample 1) or marijuana-related words or neutral words (Sample 2) and then completed the RAT. ...
... The same effect appeared in the marijuana sample. Hicks et al. (2011) further tested whether this effect would generalize to overall performance. They had participants complete either a divergent thinking task or a number of analytical math problems. ...
... Therefore, people who were more likely to use marijuana and alcohol may have been more likely to rate greater engagement in everyday creative behaviors because of the (incorrect) belief that such usage would increase creativity. This tendency may be due to expectancy and effects that people hold about marijuana and alcohol (Hicks et al. 2011;Lang et al., 1984;Lapp et al., 1994). Furthermore, given that alcohol and marijuana usage are not particularly related to creative performance (Ludwig, 1990;Norlander, 1999;Norlander & Gustafson, 1997, 1998however, see Jarosz et al., 2012), it makes sense that the actual rated creativity task was not a predictor. ...
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... Marijuana and alcohol use is often credited with enhancing creativity [65][66][67][68]. But the relationship between substances and creativity provide a convenient excuse for adolescents to explore, and ultimately substance use is not beneficial for creativity [69][70][71][72]. Many eminent writers and artists have expressed a flash of inspiration through drug and alcohol consumption [73]. ...
... In the end, creators who abused substances did not lead to positively affecting their long-term creativity and it often took away from their lives [72]. Also, creativity-related outcome expectancies (and not actual use of these substances) often account for the enhancement in creativity [70,[74][75][76][77]. ...
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Expectancies' mediational (control) role in alcohol consumption has been supported by both correlational and experimental evidence (J. Darkes & M. S. Goldman, 1993; M. S. Goldman, P. E. Greenbaum, & J. Darkes, 1997; L. Roehrich & M. S. Goldman, 1995). This study assigned participants (n = 54) to 1 of 2 expectancy challenges targeting the expectancy dimensions of either arousal or sociability identified by B. C. Rather and M. S. Goldman (1994), or to a no-treatment control, to examine the relationship of the structure and process of change in alcohol expectancies. Both challenges resulted in reduced consumption and expectancies immediately posttreatment and 6 weeks later after a short "booster" session. These results may reflect the lack of "discrete" expectancy structure and provide further support for the exploration of these methods as a possible prevention strategy.
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A dual-process model of the alcohol-behavior link is presented, synthesizing 2 of the major social-cognitive approaches: expectancy and myopia theories. Substantial evidence has accrued to support both of these models, and recent neurocognitive models of the effects of alcohol on thought and behavior have provided evidence to support both as well. While proponents of these theories have not suggested that they are mutually exclusive views on how alcohol affects behavior, attempts to synthesize the 2 have been conspicuously absent. The dual-process model presented suggests that the alcohol-behavior link is better reconceptualized as involving a "preconsumption" and a "consumption" phase. This is achieved in the context of contemporary models of automaticity in social behavior, emphasizing the commonality of both controlled and automatic processes in drinking-related behavior. It is argued that a complete understanding of the alcohol-behavior link requires an appreciation of the ways in which the mind may become "intoxicated" even in the absence of alcohol consumption. Suggestions for further research in this area, testing the present dual-process model of the alcohol-behavior link, are also discussed.
Article
Previous research has shown that primes associated with alcohol influence behavior consistent with specific alcohol expectancies. The present study examined whether exposure to marijuana-related primes and marijuana expectancies interact to produce similar effects. Specifically, the present study examined whether marijuana primes and marijuana expectancies regarding cognitive and behavioral impairment interact to influence performance on an arithmetic task. Two independent samples (N = 260) of undergraduate students (both marijuana users and nonusers) first completed measures of marijuana-outcome expectancies associated with cognitive and behavioral impairment and with general negative effects (Sample 2). Later in the semester, participants were exposed to marijuana-related (or neutral) primes and then completed an arithmetic task. Results from Sample 1 indicated that participants who were exposed to marijuana-themed magazine covers performed more poorly on the arithmetic task if they expected that marijuana would lead to cognitive and behavioral impairment. Results from Sample 2 indicated that, for marijuana users, cognitive and behavioral impairment expectancies, but not expectancies regarding general negative effects, similarly moderated arithmetic performance for participants exposed to marijuana-related words. Results support the hypothesis that the implicit activation of specific marijuana-outcome expectancies can influence cognitive processes. Implications for research on marijuana are discussed.
Article
Assigned 96 male undergraduates to 1 of 8 groups in a 2 * 2 * 2 factorial design. To control fully for expectation effects, 48 Ss were led to believe that they would be drinking alcohol (vodka and tonic), and 48 believed they would be drinking only tonic water. Within each of these 2 groups, 24 Ss actually received alcohol, but 24 were given only tonic. Following the beverage administration, 48 Ss were provoked to aggress by exposing them to an insulting confederate, whereas control Ss experienced a neutral interaction. Aggression was assessed by the intensity and duration of shocks administered to the confederate on a modified version of A. H. Buss's aggression apparatus. The only significant determinant of aggression was the expectation factor: Ss who believed they had consumed alcohol were more aggressive than Ss who believed they had consumed a nonalcoholic beverage, regardless of the actual alcohol content of the drinks. Ss receiving alcohol, however, showed a significant increase in a reaction time measure, regardless of the expectation condition. Provocation to aggress was also a significant determinant of aggression, but it did not interact with the beverage conditions. (31 ref)
Article
Four experiments indicated that positive affect, induced by means of seeing a few minutes of a comedy film or by means of receiving a small bag of candy, improved performance on two tasks that are generally regarded as requiring creative ingenuity: Duncker's (1945) candle task and M. T. Mednick, S. A. Mednick, and E. V. Mednick's (1964) Remote Associates Test. One condition in which negative affect was induced and two in which subjects engaged in physical exercise (intended to represent affectless arousal) failed to produce comparable improvements in creative performance. The influence of positive affect on creativity was discussed in terms of a broader theory of the impact of positive affect on cognitive organization.
Article
A literature characterized by considerable speculation but a paucity of empirical studies prompted this experiment on the relation between drinking and creativity. After being queried about how they believed alcohol would affect their creative performance, 40 male undergraduate social drinkers were assigned to one of four treatments in a balanced placebo design. Those actually receiving alcohol consumed a mixture containing .6 g of ethanol per kg of body weight. All subjects then completed the entire Figural portion and the Unusual Uses subtest of the Verbal portion of the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking. Posttesting explored subjects' own evaluations of their creative products and the kinds of attributions they made about factors contributing to the outcomes. Results showed minimal effects of beverage manipulations on measured creativity even when a priori belief and concurrent mood scores were covaried. However, those individuals who thought they had received alcohol gave significantly more positive evaluations of their creative performances than did subjects who believed they were in the non-alcohol treatments. Subjects did not attribute changes in creativity to drinking. Theoretical and practical implications of these findings were discussed.
Article
Assessed common expectancies concerning the effects of alcohol by eliciting expectancy dimensions from 20 undergraduates in a pilot study and then having 253 undergraduates rate the effects they expected from drinking alcohol along these dimensions. Results show that Ss expected moderate drinking (Phase 1) to result in relatively greater stimulation/perceived dominance and pleasurable disinhibition, whereas for heavy drinking they expected a greater degree of behavioral impairment. Stimulation/perceived dominance and pleasurable disinhibition were linearly related to drinking habits for Phase 1 drinking, with heavier drinkers expecting greater stimulation and pleasure. Results suggest that expectancies are important in understanding drinking patterns as well as behavior in drinking situations. (19 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Creative individuals may use psychoactive drugs to enhance their ability to produce creative works, but it is difficult to differentiate the pharmacological effects from other influences. Part of the problem is that creativity defies any simple definition, making it hard to determine when or how much creativity is evident. The other major obstacle is that life circumstances are confounded with the propensity to use drugs (including alcohol), so the causal relation of drugs to creativity is uncertain. We examined this question by an experiment in which subjects were asked to creatively combine pictures of wildflowers that were implicitly organized around a set of three dimensions: color, shape, and number. Pharmacological and expected effects of alcohol were dissociated in the experiment by using the balanced placebo design (BPD). The results showed no pharmacological effect of alcohol on the creative combinations that subjects produced. However, the novelty and structural recombination of the wildflower arrangements were enhanced when subjects thought they had consumed alcohol, whether or not they had actually done so. Implications for measuring creativity and the possible motivation to use drugs for creative effect are discussed.
Article
The present study tested whether suboptimal priming (which may be defined as 'under viewing conditions rendering conscious identification highly improbable') with alcohol-related stimuli would activate existing expectancies about alcohol's effects on sexual desire. It was predicted that alcohol cues, relative to non-alcohol cues, would activate expectancies of alcohol's aphrodisiac properties. We hypothesized that for men, stronger expectancies in this regard would predict an increased tendency to judge women as sexually attractive following the alcohol primes. Two experimental studies manipulated cue (alcohol versus control) and rating dimension (attractiveness versus intelligence). Self-reported alcohol expectancies of sexual desire were assessed approximately 1 month prior to the study. Study 2 assessed additional expectancy content domains. Study 1 comprised 82 undergraduate males and study 2 78 undergraduate males. Studies were conducted at the University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia, Missouri, USA. In both experiments, male participants were suboptimally primed with either alcohol-related or control words. Following this priming, they were presented with a series of photographs of young women and asked to either rate their attractiveness or their intelligence. In both studies, a three-way interaction between cue, rating dimension and alcohol expectancies was found. Within the attractiveness rating condition a two-way interaction was found, indicating that in this condition, stronger expectancies that alcohol increases sexual desire predicted higher attractiveness ratings after suboptimal exposure to alcohol primes. No effects emerged in the intelligence rating condition. Discussion centers on implications for sexual risk-taking as well as a range of other non-consumptive behaviors.
Article
Human creativity is difficult to define and measure, but it is undoubtedly an important cognitive process. This makes it an interesting challenge for modern neuroscientific exploration - especially given the current interest in developing cognitive enhancers for commercial and clinical uses. There are similarities between the typical traits of creative people and the subjective psychological characteristics of the psychedelic (hallucinogenic) drug experience. This phenomenon was studied in a number of small trials and case studies in the 1960s. Results were inconclusive, and the quality of these studies - by modern research standards - was merely anecdotal. Nevertheless, with today's current renaissance in psychedelic drug research and the growing interest in cognitive enhancing drugs, now may be the time to re-visit these studies with contemporary research methods.