Digital Editor Halima Ahad investigates the effects of consuming caffeine as part of a series exploring daily stresses on the brain
Caffeine. It has its ups and downs but we all love it. Whether it’s your daily iced latte or a simple evening tea, caffeine has many psychological effects on the brain. Caffeine, by definition, is a drug which stimulates (therefore increasing the activity of) your brain and nervous system and it is found in many everyday foods and drinks, namely; coffee, tea, soft and energy drinks as well as chocolate.
According to the British Psychological Society, caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant. A study carried out on university students in the USA showcased key evidence that caffeine led to an improvement on memory tests taken early in the morning (typically a low point for young adults). However, the study also showed that caffeine’s effect is mainly on memory as a separate group of participants asked to do physical exercise did not show this benefit.
Research published in 2021 also expanded the list of benefits to visual processing. Caffeine improved participants’ ability to detect moving targets according to this study, therefore having quicker reactions, including responding to pedestrians when driving.
However, there are also downsides to having caffeine. Before shopping, it can encourage impulse-buying according to research by The British Psychological Society. Participants who drank one espresso spent 50% more money than their counterparts who drank decaf or water before shopping. The study also found that the caffeinated participants were more likely to go for ‘high-hedonic’ items such as relaxing products, since they reported feeling more excited (due to the caffeine-induced faster heart rate) which in turn made them more impulsive.
Overall, caffeine is a significant part of our everyday lives. Although it has its pros and cons, the psychological impacts and effects of it are very important to consider.
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