Aug 18, 2011 12:05 PM GMT
And this returns us to marijuana: putting people in a positive mood roughly doubled their accuracy at the task. All of a sudden, they were twice as good at identifying problems with possible solutions. This suggests that anything that makes us happier, reducing vigilance and anxiety, might also make us more creative. We can detect more remote associations, of course, but we also know which associations are worth pursuing, which is probably even more important. It doesn’t matter if it’s pot, chocolate or a stand-up comic – those substances or experiences that put a smile on our face can also increase the powers of the imagination, at least when solving particular creative problems.
So here’s the very un-D.A.R.E. takeaway: heavy marijuana use doesn’t seem to cause any sort of lasting brain damage. All the negative side-effects are relatively temporary. (But those side-effects are real, so don’t try to study, drive or play chess while high. You really will perform much worse on most tasks.) Furthermore, the sort of anxiolytic giddiness triggered by THC comes with its own unexpected benefits, which is probably why humans have been self-medicating with cannabis for thousands of years.