Finding it hard to concentrate? Just looking at something that reminds us of coffee can cause our minds to become more alert and attentive, according to a new study.
"Coffee is one of the most popular beverages and a lot is known about its physical effects," said Sam Maglio, Associate Professor at the University of Toronto in Canada.
However, much less is known about its psychological meaning -- in other words, how even seeing reminders of it can influence how we think, Maglio added.
The study, published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition, looks at an effect called priming, through which exposure to even subtle cues can influence our thoughts and behaviour.
"People often encounter coffee-related cues, or think about coffee without actually ingesting it," Maglio said.
The team used a mix of participants from Western and Eastern cultures "to see if there was an association between coffee and arousal such that if we simply exposed people to coffee-related cues, their physiological arousal would increase, as it would if they had actually drank coffee," he noted.
They found that participants exposed to coffee-related cues perceived time as shorter and thought in more concrete, precise terms.
"People who experience physiological arousal -- again, in this case as the result of priming and not drinking coffee itself -- see the world in more specific, detailed terms," Maglio said. "This has a number of implications for how people process information and make judgements and decisions."
However, the study noted that the association between coffee and arousal is not as strong in less coffee-dominated cultures.
Maglio said the research may be of interest in better understanding a range of consumer-related behaviours and for marketers in considering retail store locations.