Los Angeles, May 16: Drinking coffee during meetings can lead to a more focused group discussion, boost involvement and leave members feeling better about everyone's participation, according to scientists including those of Indian origin. Decades of coffee research have explored its effects on the individual, but the study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, is the first on the effects on performance in group tasks.
"If you look at where coffee's being consumed, a significant amount happens in group settings," said Rao Unnava, dean of the management school at the University of California, Davis in the US. Researchers, including Amit Singh from Ohio State University in the US, conducted two experiments, each involving about 70 undergraduates.
In the first experiment, small groups had coffee together about 30 minutes before discussing an article. Other groups had their coffee after the discussion. Participants who had the coffee before the discussion rated their groups' and their own performance more positively.
In the second experiment, all the participants had a cup of coffee together before the discussions. However, some groups got caffeinated coffee, and others got decaffeinated coffee. In keeping with the results of the first experiment, the groups who had the caffeinated coffee rated their own participation and their attitude toward group members more positively than those who had the decaffeinated coffee.
They also expressed more of a willingness to work with the group again and a higher level of alertness. Coding of audio recordings from the discussions showed that the groups that had caffeinated coffee generated more statements relevant to the topic. Rather than proclaiming caffeine as the ultimate catalyst for better group work, the researchers pointed to the increased level of alertness as being the mechanism for the positive effects.