60-Second Mind

Coffee Boosts Recognition of Positive Words

A recent study finds that we tend to recognize words associated with positive thoughts faster after we've had some coffee. Christie Nicholson reports

A lot of people just don’t feel quite human without that morning cup of coffee. Now a study finds that the enhanced sense of well-being that caffeine can cause is reflected in our perception of words. Specifically, caffeine increases the ability to recognize words associated with positive thoughts, but doesn’t provide the same boost for words with negative or even neutral associations. The research is in the journal PLoS One.

Scientists assigned 66 subjects to one of two groups. Half got a 200-milligram caffeine tablet, a dose equal to almost three cups of coffee. The other half received a sugar tablet. Thirty minutes later the volunteers were shown strings of letters, and had to decide as fast as they could if a string formed a word or was just gibberish.

The volunteers recognized words with positive associations much faster than either negative or neutral words.

Other studies have shown that positive words tend to be recognized more quickly, but the caffeine increases the gap.

So next time you wake up with a grumpy sweetheart, your compliments might be appreciated more if they have a cup of coffee.

—Christie Nicholson

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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