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You’ve heard it, I’ve heard it, we all have – caffeine is basically life juice. Whether you’re studying for a final, working out at the gym, getting some projects done, or even going out with friends, caffeine is a must-have to give you that extra pep in your step. We all know about its energizing properties; but can caffeine actually improve your inherent ability to comprehend, reason, problem solve and recall? 

One research team from Barnard College’s psychology department learning lab decided to investigate. Your ability to comprehend, reason, problem solve and recall is enabled by your working memory, which generally aids in processing and applying information. Working memory can store 5-9 pieces of information, called chunks, at a time – and theoretically, caffeine could increase this capacity. 

In their study, the research team asked college-aged participants to drink a beverage, which they did not know was caffeinated or not. Participants waited 25 minutes for the caffeine to take effect, then completed two working memory tasks: a spatial memory task and a digit recall task. Scores from 2-10 were recorded for both groups, and the results were not quite what you’d expect. 

Results of this study showed that while caffeine did in fact significantly improve participants’ scores on the digit recall task, it did not significantly improve participants’ scores on the spatial memory task. What does that mean for your studying habits? 

Continue to drink that coffee! Though it might not help with spatial concepts, caffeine won’t negatively affect your overall working memory. Especially with numerical tasks, caffeine will actually improve your ability to recall, comprehend, problem solve and reason. Cheers! 

Mary Prestegaard

Columbia Barnard '25

Coming to New York from Nashville, Mary is a psychology enthusiast especially fascinated by the concept of positive psychology. She loves exploring the city and swears by the motto "try anything once", especially when it comes to restaurants. She also enjoys playing basketball, watching football, playing piano, or petting any dog she sees.