It’s a well-known fact that a cup of coffee or two in the morning gives us the energy push we need to clear our minds and get busy on a project. In fact, psychology researchers from Tufts University have recently published a paper in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied that caffeine is particularly a great stimulant that enhances a person’s ability to process information related to the more complex aspects of language and writing.
According to a news release by Tufts University, “Coffee is the most widely used psycho-stimulant in the world,” says Holly Taylor, a professor of psychology in the School of Arts and Sciences. The study was part of a larger research program looking at arousal and cognitive behavior.
In the study, 36 participants who were relatively light-weight coffee drinkers (approximately ½ cup per day) were given a test consisting of identifying and correcting mistakes in a one-page news release in a 5-minute time frame. To determine the effects of coffee on completing this task, the participants were given either 0, 100, 200, or 400 milligrams of caffeine that are equivalent to no coffee, 8 ounces of coffee, 16 ounces of coffee, and 20 ounces of coffee respectively.
A second study identical to the first with the exception that the participants were relatively heavy coffee drinkers—three cups (24 ounces) of coffee per day—were tested in comparison.
What the study revealed was that while taking caffeine did not improve the participant’s abilities for detecting spelling errors, it did improve their abilities in identifying and correcting more complex mistakes related to subject and verb agreement and verb tense.
Furthermore, the results showed that the participant’s normal levels (relatively low and relatively high) of caffeine did best only when given an extra boost of caffeine. The relatively low coffee drinkers performed best with 200 milligrams of caffeine, whereas the relatively heavy coffee drinkers needed 400 milligrams or more to perform better on the test.
The researchers concluded that caffeine as a central nervous system stimulant may enhance global processing of language-based materials and that such effects may originate in caffeine-related right hemisphere brain processes. The authors state that future testing will address the effect of caffeine on memory as well.
For an informative article about cancer prevention linked to coffee, follow this link to an article titled “Four Cups of Coffee a Day May Protect You from One of the Top 10 Cancers.”
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Reference: “Caffeine enhances real-world language processing: Evidence from a proofreading task” Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, Vol. 18(1), pp. 95-108 (2012); Brunyé, Tad T.; Mahoney, Caroline R.; Rapp, David N.; Ditman, Tali; Taylor, Holly A.