Does Thinking About Coffee Improve Your Focus?


enough just thinking about coffee
The Waka Life Blog

Does Thinking About Coffee Improve Your Focus Without Actually Drinking It?

Caffeine components give us the stamina that we need to push ourselves throughout the day, but is just thinking about coffee enough? Let's explore!

simply thinking about coffee can help

A new research by Eugene Chan and Sam Maglio has discovered that thinking about coffee can have similar affects on our body as if we were drinking it. To better understand their conclusion we need to dive in into some scientific terminology. We recommend drinking a cup of coffee while drinking it (just in case).


Ever wonder what a hidden message actually was? Or a message that’s right there in front of us but we can’t see? These messages hit us when we least expect it causing us to feel a certain sense of nostalgia.

So what are subliminal messages anyway? According to Psychologist World, they are “a signal or message [that is] designed to pass below (sub) the normal limits of perception.” These messages speak to the unconscious mind rather than the conscious one that most messages are perceived to. It can also apply to a picture that was seen at some point but only registered in the unconscious mind, which at some time will output itself to the conscious mind. The sounds or images of a subliminal message are perceived on a different level of the brain.

The term ‘subliminal messages’ was coined from the original use as subliminal advertising. Dating back to 1957, subliminal advertising is an advising trend that causes consumers to buy more of the product without even realizing that they are doing so. James Vicary, a market researcher, announced that he had discovered a new method of advertising that would spike sales.

He began showing very quick images of cola and popcorn brands throughout movies in the cinema, increasing the likelihood that people will associate these two products with watching movies and buy more of them when they do so. The subliminal message caused the viewers to think about these products when they were watching a movie, which led them to purchase these specific cola and popcorn brands before the or throughout the movies. Do you think it is a mistake that nowadays you can see some laptop brands or coffee brands in movies? Probably not.


thinking about instant coffee study

Construal Level Theory, or CLT, is a social psychology concept that focuses on the association between people’s thinking of events or objects and the psychological distance, whether concrete or abstract, by which they occur.

CLT targets the distance by which an event will happen. The further an object or event is the more likely we are to think about abstract ideas and questions that relate to it. The closer to us an object or event is, the more likely we are to think about concrete ideas and questions that pertain to that matter. An example of an abstract idea would be wondering where you would travel to in a couple month’s time; whereas a concrete one would be what to make for dinner tonight. The level of importance by which we classify elements has an effect on how we perceive them in terms of distance, whether they are abstract or concrete.

Based on CLT, people perceive objects and events in multiple categories of psychological distances. These types include social distances (distance between two entities), hypothetical distances (what ifs), temporal distances (time), and spatial distances (space involving oneself physically).


Consciousness, or "our awareness of our own mental processes," changes the way we go about our day. We can be conscious of our own feelings, sensations, and thoughts, but very rarely be aware of these mechanisms in other people; consciousness is more personal than it is a shared event with others.

Depending on the caffeine level in the cup of coffee, our consciousness can be elevated or lowered. Too much caffeine will cause these levels to be heightened, which would affect the way we are aware of our surroundings. A person experiencing these symptoms might show signs of running on a generator worth of energy, it just keeps going! Whereas when the caffeine levels are lowered it would be as if the person was ‘running on empty,’ dragging themselves just to make it through alive.

Being alert and aware is something people strive to achieve when they are having their daily dose of coffee and caffeine intake. They hope its effects will lift them up to return to normalcy.


how coffee affects our brain

Its 4 o’clock, you have 2 more hours for the work day, you’ve already maxed out your allotted cups of coffee and caffeine for the day, how will you get through it? Will thinking about the 5th cup actually get you to the end of the day?

A recent study has found that thinking about coffee might be enough to make us more conscious, hence more alert to the surroundings and focus on what we are doing. As published in Consciousness and Cognition, Eugene Chan and Sam Maglio have discovered that thinking about coffee (rather than drinking it) can lower our mental construal levels while at the same time increase our arousals. This exposure increases our concrete viewpoints allowing us to be able to focus more on the present tasks, rather than stew over the hypothetical distances. The research found that even without drinking the coffee, the concrete effects can rise almost immediately.

Chan and Maglio focused on the subliminal messages that were combined with the environmental cues to form their hypothesis. They conducted 4 experiments, each of which asked participants to come up with slogans for a fake coffee company known as Arisokraft. This fabricated experiment subliminally posed the participants to think about coffee even when they did not know that they were, thus causing consciousness later on when they are thinking about the drink. These coffee cues allowed the participants to pay more attention to detail as they became more alert throughout the day.

Thinking about coffee over actually drinking it is a psychological aspect rather than a physical one. Our brains take those subliminal messages from our unconscious minds and bring them forward to our conscious ones. Once they have moved to become conscious we think of the concrete aspects of them as they have more of an impact on us right now, allowing us to focus more on the task at hand. It is not considered a physical aspect because we are not actually doing anything physically. Yes we are able to do more work since we have a sharper viewpoint at the moment, but there is no hard substance that is making us focus on the task, without actually drinking that cup of joe.

We are simply being tricked into thinking we had that extra cup! The brain is an astonishing organ that not only causes our every move and thought, but also plays games with itself. After all, who doesn’t love a good game?


research about coffee

As we were able to determine from subliminal advertising, thinking about coffee is not restricted to scents or sounds. A simple picture of a coffee cup could do the illusion as well. Seeing your coworker’s coffee mug, or that coffee shop on the corner when you take your afternoon walk, could cause your brain to think you had that extra cup, allowing you to pay more attention to what you are doing.

We recommend thinking about and drinking Waka Coffee. Get it here.

Waka Coffee & Tea