Yo, what’s good? It’s ya boy Dan, comin’ at you live with some fresh news. You know how everyone always says that weed helps with creativity? From Paris in the 20s to Silicon Valley in the 2000s, marijuana has been a go-to for artists and techies alike. Stephen Jay Gould and Louis Armstrong were both fans of the green, with Louis even calling it an “assistant and friend”. But is there really something special about Mary Jane that makes her the ultimate muse? A recent study is throwing some shade on that theory.
Christopher Barnes, a professor of organizational behavior at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business and one of the authors of the study, says that “almost everyone thinks that cannabis makes them more creative. And it seems like that assumption is not supported by the data.” The researchers initially thought that cannabis indirectly increased creativity by making users feel happier. After all, getting high tends to lift moods, which could lead to a change in mindset that fuels creativity. But when they had third-party raters judge the creativity of both users and non-users, they didn’t see a difference.
To really put this theory to the test, researchers designed a randomized controlled trial comparing the creative outputs of light cannabis users who had just smoked versus those who had not. The results showed that participants who had smoked weed believed their own ideas were more creative compared to those who were sober – but third-party raters didn’t see a difference. The stoners also thought other people’s ideas were more creative than non-users did.
A previous study from 2017 published in Consciousness and Cognition came closer to concluding that cannabis does boost creativity. In this study, cannabis smokers outperformed non-smokers over two tests measuring divergent and convergent thinking. However, the researchers stressed that while cannabis users might be more creative than non-users, cannabis itself is not a creativity booster. The psychoactive compounds in weed stimulate the brain and boost output of all kinds, which can lead users to think they’re being more creative when they’re really not.
So, what’s the takeaway? Cannabis users tend to have different personality traits than non-users – for example, they’re more likely to be open to new experiences. This is something associated with both cannabis use and heightened creativity. Many artists and creatives swear by cannabis, but whether it actually boosts creativity depends on the person. Your tolerance, how much you smoke, and your creative process will all affect the outcome. As we move towards more AI and tech breakthroughs, it’s likely that there will be more research into this area.
At the end of the day, Lady Gaga said it best: “I smoke a lot of pot when I write music.” So if you’re feeling stuck on that project, maybe light up and see where your mind takes you. But don’t count on Mary Jane to do all the work – in the end, it’s up to you to bring those creative ideas to life.