The caffeine-fuelled brain: how coffee improves mental performance


In the knowledge economy, your employees are your most valuable asset, so anything you can do to boost their mental faculties is good for business.​

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Coffee is one of those things. It's a simple, effective way to improve mental performance that pays for itself in increased productivity. Here are 5 ways that coffee sharpens the mind!

Coffee reduces the speed-accuracy trade-off

When it comes to tasks that require focused effort, the human brain can either do them quickly, or accurately. The faster you go, the more mistakes you’re liable to make. The more carefully you approach the task, the longer it will take. This is called the “speed-accuracy trade-off.” Studies have shown that when people are given caffeine, the trade-off is reduced. In other words, people can work faster while maintaining the same accuracy, or they can work carefully a little faster.

Coffee improves reaction time

This doesn’t just mean physical performance, but mental reaction time too. This is actually one of the most consistent research findings in caffeine research. It is normally tested through multiple choice-type tasks, where participants are challenged to answer as quickly as they can. So, if people have just had some coffee, they become a little mentally faster than they were before.

Coffee increases vigilance

Vigilance in this context means the ability to hold your focus on a repetitive task for long periods of time. Every line of work has an aspect of this, whether it’s proofreading, data entry, or processing orders. Over time the mind starts to wander, which can cause mistakes. Coffee helps prevent this, especially in people who are already starting to get tired or sleepy.

Coffee increases attention

This might sound like the same thing as vigilance, and they are similar, but scientists define the two a little differently. Attention is your ability to hold your focus on a task while suppressing distractions. So, you’re working on a report, and your phone goes off, and you see an email alert. Instead of stopping, breaking your flow, and halting your progress, coffee helps you stay on task and carry on with what you’re doing.

Coffee is a mood booster

You’re probably very familiar with this effect! Coffee increases positive mood hormones for a short time after you drink it. Obviously, this is a useful thing in any environment where people need to work together. But did you know that positive moods can also improve creativity? Psychologists have discovered that when people are in a happy state, they do better in tasks that involve coming up with ideas. So make sure people have time to make a coffee before they go into a brainstorming session!

Conclusion

Coffee improves mental performance in several ways - and they can all help improve performance in the workplace. Coffee’s key effect though is to maintain these faculties when people start getting tired. This is key in the afternoon when focus starts to slip - especially during the infamous post-lunch slump!

Not yet convinced? Why not speak to us about a free coffee taster session at your office.

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