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Coffee proven to improve group performance, collaboration

A recent study has found that serving coffee at a meeting stimulates the discussion and keeps it focused, promotes involvement, and makes group members feel positively about their own participation as well as the contribution of others.

While many decades of research has explored the effects of coffee on individuals, this study is the first to focus on the influence that coffee has on group performance.

Study co-author Rao Unnava is the dean of the Graduate School of Management at the University of California, Davis.

“If you look at where coffee’s being consumed, a significant amount happens in group settings,” said Unnava.

The study involved two experiments, each of which was focused on around 70 undergraduate students.

In the first trial, several small teams of participants drank coffee together before engaging in a group discussion about the Occupy movement, while the other teams drank coffee after engaging in a group discussion. The groups were tasked with developing concepts based on the movement to be included in graduate school discussion topics.

The researchers found that participants who had coffee prior to the meeting rated their own performance as well as the accomplishment of their team much more positively compared to those who drank coffee after the meeting.

Study co-author Vasu Unnava wanted to find out if it was the caffeine or simply the act of drinking coffee together that led to more positive outcomes. In a second trial, all of the teams had coffee together before engaging in group discussions, but some of the teams were given decaffeinated coffee.

The individuals who drank caffeinated coffee rated themselves and their teams more positively compared to individuals who had decaffeinated coffee. The researchers also noted that the caffeinated students were more alert and reported more willingness to work with their teams again.

Furthermore, recordings of the group conferences revealed that teams who drank caffeinated coffee were more focused and contributed more information that was relevant to the discussion topic.

The team believes that the positive effects observed in the study can be attributed to the increased level of awareness that follows caffeine consumption.

The research is published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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