Coffee Is Even More Magical Than You Think

The power one little bean holds over humanity and civilization as a whole is beyond staggering. Worldwide, we are obsessed with coffee. When it comes to the coffee plant, the threat of extinction could actually have implications for global peace.

Think that's overstating it? One new study from the University of Toronto finds that even a visual reminder of coffee can stimulate the brain in ways reminiscent of our favorite beverage. A psychological input is creating a physiological effect.

The nitty-gritty is that when study participants encountered certain images or scenarios, such as a mug or a store logo, they became more psychologically aroused. There's a productivity angle too: According to a press release, "participants exposed to coffee-related cues perceived time as shorter and thought in more concrete, precise terms."

Research published last summer found related results: Just the smell of coffee in a room helped test-takers score higher. In a world where drinking too much coffee can drag down your performance (and where we'll pay more for coffee when we're already flagging), it may be worth cutting back on the java without giving up on its benefits. We already rank small daily purchases among our greatest financial regrets.

Interestingly, this effect isn't limited to coffee. In fact, the Toronto researchers gathered data across four studies in both Eastern and Western cultures. Coffee prompted more of a reaction in Western study participants, but tea can provoke arousal too. Cultural conditioning and environment inform a lot about how our brains work, which makes for a weird money-saving trick if you know how to spin it.