Go ahead and serve coffee at your next meeting. According to new research, serving the hot beverage can focus group discussion, boost involvement, and leave participants feeling better about how much they and the others in the room have contributed. The research was conducted by Vasu Unnava, an adjunct assistant professor at the Graduate School of Management at the University of California, Davis; Amit Singh, a graduate student at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio; and Rao Unnava, dean of the Graduate School of Management at UC Davis. The study was part of the work of the new multidisciplinary UC Davis Coffee Center created to explore issues unique to the coffee industry.
The researchers conducted two experiments, each involving about 70 undergraduates at a large university. In the first, small groups had coffee together about 30 minutes before discussing an article about the Occupy movement and making recommendations about whether the topic should be included in a competition for discussion topics in graduate school. Other groups had their coffee after the discussion. Participants who drank coffee before the discussion gave more positive ratings to their own and their group’s performance.
In the second experiment, the researchers gave some groups coffee with caffeine, while others got decaf. Participants who drank caffeinated coffee rated their own participation and attitudes toward their group members more positively than those who drank decaf. They also expressed more willingness to work with their groups again and demonstrated a higher level of alertness.
Additionally, caffeine-fueled discussions generated more statements relevant to the topic at hand. The researchers concluded that the increased level of alertness acted as the catalyst that sparked better group work.
“Coffee with co-workers: role of caffeine on evaluations of the self and others in group settings” appeared in the March 2018 issue of the Journal of Psychopharmacology.