Smile Politely

Caffeine — It’s what people crave

I have always argued that caffeine does not actually make me awake, but it does make me less bitchy. My personal observation now has some science to bolster it: A study published recently in the journal PLoS ONE by Lars Kuchinke and Vanessa Lux at Ruhr University Bochum in Germany looked into the upper that is caffeine and found that it helps the brain to quickly process positive words.

The smell of grounds as you add them to the filter, the happy sound of heated water combining with the grounds extracting all that lovely caffeine dripping into the pre-heated carafe, and anticipation of the lovely warmth and flavor is all exquisite. Nothing is better than taking a moment to wrap your hands around a steaming mug, with a dash of Coffee-Mate®, while watching birds in the back yard. This moment in time that we allow ourselves before being immersed in everyone else’s issues and the hectic hustle and bustle is a ritual that many are loath to give up. Research reported on morning shows and the evening news is conflicting — some quotes research that supports caffeine as a risk; other studies say that small amounts have real benefits. Now even the FDA is getting into the debate (apparently adding caffeine to jelly beans is going too far).

To weigh in on the ongoing debate over caffeine, researchers at Ruhr University Bochum, Germany investigated how the brain reacts to caffeine. We know that emotion affects performance from our jobs to the bedroom, and the strength of emotion that arises from a word, image, or task can be measured. There is even research that shows that we tend to focus on negatives more than positives as part of our brain chemistry.

Tests of word recognition were preformed on 66 individuals split up into caffeinated and non-caffeinated groups. To control for the warm, fuzzy feeling we get from a mug of coffee, the caffeine was administered in a tablet form (or placebo if you were to be deprived of caffeine for the experiment). Analysis of the word recognition data showed that people with two to three cups worth of caffeine raging through their blood identified and processed positive words more quickly than their sadly un-caffeinated counterparts.

Ryan Reynolds’ character in The Proposal had the right idea — bring your cranky boss a latte and your days might be better for both of you!


Citation: Kuchinke L, Lux V (2012). “Caffeine Improves Left Hemisphere Processing of Positive Words.” PLoS ONE 7(11): e48487. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0048487

More Articles