This Just In: Pot Doesn’t Help Creativity
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This Just In: Pot Doesn’t Help Creativity


This post was originally published on December 16, 2014.

A study out of Leiden University in the Netherlands shows that while under the influence of marijuana, the creativity of regular users suffer. In other words, you may feel good when you’ve smoked up but the work you’re producing maybe is not. This is likely not shocking information if you have tried marijuana, have observed someone under the influence of marijuana or have seen a movie starring Seth Rogen.

The researchers took three groups and gave one no THC, one a low dose of THC and one a higher dosage of THC. No group knew how much THC they’d been given, if any. The groups were then asked to think of creative uses for a pen. Real talk? Right now I can’t think of a use for a pen other than writing. I would have bombed this question stone cold sober. I suppose you could use the pen as a bookmark if you don’t mind misshaping your book but that sounds like an answer I would give while high.

The Two Types of Thinking

The study tested the participants on convergent and divergent thinking. Those in the no and low-dose THC groups were better at divergent thinking—essentially having to think outside of the box—which I just failed at above. All of the groups were on par with each other when it came to convergent thinking which requires giving the only correct answer to a question. However much weed you smoke, you won’t forget that a pen is used for writing. At least not if you’re trying really hard to remember because you’re part of a study.

It’s important to note that while the study finds the creativity of regular users suffering while under the influence, it does not show that their creativity suffers once the effects of the THC have worn off, not even in the long-term. In other words: smoke that J a little before to loosen up or after as a reward for a job well done but don’t expect it to help usher in a muse serving up the plot for the next great American novel!

Sorry to be the Bearer of Bad News

If you were one of people that thought the same drug that causes people to forget turn off the oven, laugh at absolutely nothing and sometimes move in slow motion was expanding minds and fueling great art, this is the pin in your bubble. And yes, we probably all do have that one friend that really is so much more amazing when they’re high because they’re normally so reserved but the study isn’t focused on our anecdata. Smoking a lot of weed before you sit down to write or paint is likely hindering your production and you’re just imagining the benefit—an understandable belief to have when you’re high.

This is one of those studies that has you shaking your fist at the screen saying, “I could have told you that!” while wondering what studies you could try and get funded. Whether or not we were looking for the answer, we now have it.

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About Author

Emily is a writer living in Brooklyn or Los Angeles. Sometimes Boston or Providence. She's written for xojane, among other publications. She is tall and has never played basketball.