Coffee Helps Teams Work Together
Researchers found that people gave more positive reviews for their group's performance on a task -- and their own contribution -- if they drank caffeinated coffee beforehand.
A second study showed that people talked more in a group setting under the influence of caffeinated coffee -- but they also were more on-topic than those who drank decaf. Coffee seems to work its magic in teams by making people more alert, said Amit Singh, co-author of the study and a doctoral student in marketing at The Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business.
"We found that increased alertness was what led to the positive results for team performance," Singh said. "Not surprisingly, people who drank caffeinated coffee tended to be more alert." Singh conducted the study with Vasu Unnava and H. Rao Unnava, both formerly at Ohio State and now with the Graduate School of Management at the University of California, Davis. The study appears online in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
While many studies have looked at how caffeine affects individual performance, this is the first to examine the impact it has on teams, Singh said.
"We suspect that when people are more alert they see themselves and the other group members contributing more, and that gives them a more positive attitude," Singh said.
But the caffeine does more than just increase good feelings. The researchers did an analysis of the group discussion in the second study, rating how much each group member talked and stayed on topic. Results showed that people tended to talk more after drinking caffeine, but they also tended to stay more on topic.
"They're talking about more relevant things after drinking caffeinated coffee," he said. One might think that if people are talking more about a controversial topic like the Occupy movement, that may cause friction in the group. But that's not what the study suggests.
People who drank caffeinated coffee were more likely than those who drank decaf to say they would be willing to work with their group again. "Even though they are talking more, agreeing and disagreeing, they still want to work with them again," Singh said.
"Coffee didn't seem to make group discussions too uncomfortable and disagreeable."
(Source: Materials provided by Ohio State University)