Everyone knows an asshole or two that can ace an exam after all-night benders. Maybe that asshole is you? Regardless, it isn’t necessary to keep cursing the world for its injustices. It turns out, this superpower isn’t a random gift.
Alcohol might actually improve our memory of events before drinking begins.
In a new study from the University of Exeter, social drinkers were given a word-learning task and then split into two random groups — participants that could drink as much as they wanted and ones who had to abstain. The following day, the two groups were asked to do the same task, and it was the drinkers who remembered more of what they had learned.
If that sounds too good to be true, it gets even better.
“Our research not only showed that those who drank alcohol did better when repeating the word-learning task, but that this effect was stronger among those who drank more,” says Professor Celia Morgan, one of the main researchers.
As if we needed any more reasons to drink.
Johnny Fare, 23, has conducted the same experiment countless times in hiw own escapades — though unknowingly.
“I always did it because I thought it just helps me relax and not overthink what I know and what I don’t," he admits. "I never liked to study until the last minute. Most of the time, I would study until the early evening, and then say 'Fuck it. This is as good as it gets. I’m going to get a few drinks.' I always felt like things come to me more easily during the exam [after drinking the night before] because I just felt more relaxed and focused. Of course, I never got completely shitfaced because I would have probably missed the whole exam.”
Even though the research hasn’t been able to fully determine how exactly alcohol creates that paradoxical effect, the preferred theory is that basically alcohol helps our brains rest from all the information we constantly pour into it and thus lets it focus on what's already there.
“The causes of the effect are not fully understood, but the leading explanation is that alcohol blocks learning of new information and therefore the brains has more resources available to lay down other recently learned information into long-term memory,” Morgan continues.
Though the idea of our minds taking a step back to go a few steps forward is not just a novelty among the scientific circles. Various research has demonstrated that naps, meditation (or other types of relaxing) give our brains the chance to process existing ideas and form new ones, boost productivity, attention, and generally help our poor grey matter with all the workload we burden them with.
And what's relaxation without a few drinks?.
Satan's Syrup might not be all bad after all; in fact, as far as deals with the devil go, a hangover for a night of fun and a passed exam sounds like a pretty good trade-off. For the abstainers, or the fans of more old-fashioned preparation, perhaps the best advice would probably be to give your brain the day off some other way.
As usual, maybe the wise, old-timey folks have known all along what science takes the credit for: