Drinking coffee before a discussion can help people stay focused and feel better about the people in the conversation, suggests a new study that appears in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
“We see coffee being served in many meetings but found very little research on how coffee might affect group dynamics. Most research is about how coffee affects an individual. So, we decided to study the effects (if any), of consumption of coffee on performance of individuals in a group, and the collective output of the group,” explained study author Vasu Unnava of the University of California, Davis.
In two experiments on a total of 134 college students, the researchers found that people who ingested caffeinated coffee felt better about themselves and their fellow participants.
The researchers formed the students into groups and had them discuss the Occupy Wall Street movement for 15 minutes. They found participants who were instructed to consume caffeinated coffee before the discussion were better at focusing on the topic at hand.
“The study was conducted using people who consume coffee regularly,” Unnava explained. “For these people, it looks like coffee does make them feel more alert, focuses their thinking on the topic or task at hand, and has them participate more in group tasks. So, if you are a coffee drinker, it looks like coffee helps you do better in group tasks.”
The study has some caveats.
“A major caveat is that our coffee drinkers came to the study after staying away from coffee for a few hours,” Unnava said. “So, we do not know if the coffee they consumed in the study increased their alertness or it is the decreased alertness in those who consumed decaffeinated coffee that caused the effects reported in the study.”
“Second, we used a topic that the participants generally agreed on. What the results might be if there is disagreement is an interesting issue to study further. Finally, we used only one type of task – group discussion. How coffee may affect people’s performance in other kinds of tasks (e.g., group problem solving, group physical work) is not known.”
The study, “Coffee with co-workers: role of caffeine on evaluations of the self and others in group settings“, was authored by Vasu Unnava, Amit Surendra Singh, and H. Rao Unnava.