The source of coffee’s powerful stimulating effects may not be limited to the caffeine in it, or even to its rich, distinct aroma. A new study suggests that merely being exposed to cues about coffee is enough to perk up the mind and make us more likely to concentrate on the task at hand, while the same could not be said for tea. Crucially, however, this was only found to be true for people who psychologically link coffee with ideas of alertness, ambition, and productivity, as is the case in western cultures.

According to what psychologists call “construal level theory,” people can process information or imagine events in either broad or specific modes, and the way we behave differs accordingly. In the coffee study, the researchers ran four experiments involving lab and online tests. Across the experiments, the researchers say they found evidence that priming people with coffee cues—exposing them to images and other stimuli that conjured thoughts about coffee did increase their mental construal, and also made them perceive time as shorter. An hour seemed to zip by faster with coffee on the mind. One useful takeaway from these studies could be to experiment with different ways of benefiting from coffee during the day without drinking it after the morning cup.

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