Does Caffeine Make Us Smarter?

A cup of coffee with a notepad and pencil

I happened upon an article about coffee that is available at the end of this blog.  That got me to thinking, does caffeine make us smarter?  That depends on a number of things including how we define smarter and some analysis of what caffeine does to our brains.  Having researched this a little further I wanted to share this with you.

What Does Intelligence Mean?

What does smarter mean?  Intelligence?  Psychology Today includes “a construct that includes problem solving abilities, spatial manipulation, and language acquisition” as intelligence. In The Servant Manager, tip 197 states “Remember and Respect the Seven Intelligences”.  These are linguistic, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, spatial, musical, interpersonal and intrapersonal, intelligence.  The tip suggests we should consider where we individually stand in each of these intelligences and where are our individual employees on each of these seven intelligences. We should celebrate and respect our differences.  Maybe instead of intelligence we should consider focus.

Our Brains and Focus

For the sake of argument lets assume that for the moment we are interested in the term focus and the ability to focus. We know that when we are angry adrenaline and cortisol impact the brain. When we are very angry and our brains are flooded with various chemicals and hormones we focus on very little other than the issue that made us angry.  We are oblivious to other things around us, but we are very focused on our anger.  When we are angry the brain becomes more stimulated and this causes an increase in heart rate among other things.  That is on the negative side. 

On the positive side we are able to focus better feel happier when we have higher doses of dopamine, endorphins,  oxytocine and serotonin.  Each of these has an impact on our happiness.

So, let’s look at each. In a nutshell to increase levels of dopamine break big projects into smaller milestones and appreciate and celebrate the milestones along the way creating and create future milestones. To increase endorphins, celebrate past successes and have lunch outside or a cup of coffee. To increase oxytocin, give gifts to others and receive simple gifts and hugs or appropriate touch. To increase serotonin, laugh daily and regularly exercise. All of these help stimulate dopamine, endorphins, oxytocine and serotonin making us happier and allowing us to focus better. Did you notice one of the items listed was to potentially have a cup of coffee to increase our caffeine level?

To check out more, see this well written in depth article on Does Coffee Make Us Smarter by Coffee Abode. According to this source coffee can stimulate not only endorphins as a way to celebrate, but also increase dopamine. Caffeine also hinders ACH short for Acetylcholine.  ACH provides a sedative effect.  When you take caffeine, this can increase your happiness with dopamine and hinder the sedative effect of ACH.  Caffeine is certainly found in coffee, but also with chocolate and other sources such as soda or pop.  Their article states that

“caffeine may not make you more intelligent, but it can make you more efficient by helping you (positively) focus … it can give you the boost of energy when you most need it”.  In short taken in moderation when needed caffeine can provide a real boost.

If you are in conflict or working on a collaboration keep in mind that a boost of caffeine may just be the ticket to help you or the other party over the hump to reach a satisfactory resolution.  Keep this in your tool box of items to help you resolve conflict and promote collaboration with others.

Contact me to speak to your group or consult with you. Check out my website, books and content. I am an international speaker. I speak on how to overcome conflict with collaboration by taking advantage of the collaboration effect TM enhancing relationships, resources and revenues. My service areas are related to helping clients resolve conflict: business to IRS, business to business and within businesses. I have written 11 books including The Servant Manager and Peaceful Resolutions. I may be contacted directly at mg@mikegreg.com and at (651) 633-5311. [Michael Gregory, NSA, ASA, CVA; MBA]