In the information age, touch typing skills are crucial for clear and efficient communication. But typed communication requires fine motor skill that could be impaired by commonly used psychoactive substances. This study examined the effects of various substance consumption on fine motor skills. One 27-year-old male journalist participated in the study. Typing speed and typing accuracy were measured after the journalist consumed marijuana, caffeine, alcohol (several units) and alcohol (many, many units). This data was compared to a control test in which the journalist measured typing speed and accuracy while in what is believed to have been a completely sober state. The results suggest that typing speed is improved under the influence of caffeine, and speed and accuracy are slightly inhibited by several alcoholic beverages and/or marijuana consumption, and are severely inhibited by a large number of alcoholic beverages.
Past studies have shown that typing speed is a fine motor skill that can be improved or otherwise altered by a number of different variables, including key size, spacing, and layout. Touch typing is also greatly improved by one's "muscle memory" and so specific training courses can improve typing performance. Various studies have shown that marijuana, alcohol, and caffeine can have short-term effects on a subject's fine motor skills. The link between muscle memory and these drugs has not been extensively studied, however. No large-scale studies have assessed the relationship between recreational drug consumption and touch typing speed. This researcher believes that, should any recreational drug be shown to significantly improve typing speed and accuracy, an upstart young journalist, transcription worker, or office professional could push him or herself to the front of the pack by consistently consuming any substance that enhances typing prowess.
Subject reported a long history of typing while under the influence of psychoactive substances, including many regrettable emails and instant messages riddled with typographical errors sent after consuming considerable amounts of alcoholic beverages during college. Subject reported not being much of a marijuana smoker but thought this research paper would be boring with just alcohol and caffeine and he wasn't willing to risk the ostracism of his peers at VICE Media should he elect to illegally consume other psychoactive substances. Subject also reported wanting to perform this experiment because he recently had a cup of coffee—which he had been abstaining from—and felt his hands flying around the keyboard faster than normal as he transcribed interviews.
Given previous research on the effect of drug consumption on fine motor skills, we hypothesize that alcohol and marijuana will inhibit both typing speed and accuracy, while caffeine will increase typing speed but decrease typing accuracy.
Subject performed three one-minute English typing tests at www.typingtest.com (Fig. 1) using a standard 13" MacBook Pro notebook computer keyboard. The subjects of the text of the tests were, in order, "Tigers in the Wild," "Rules of Baseball," and "Zebra - Africa's Striped Horse." It is the opinion of this researcher that perhaps a series of random texts from a different website would lead to more scientifically accurate results, but it was also the opinion of the subject that tigers and baseball are badass—zebras he could take or leave, the subject reported.
On several days between November 1 and November 24, 2015, subject consumed various substances and then completed the tests. On one occasion, he smoked roughly four (4) marijuana units (like, one bowl or something?) and completed the tests. On another occasion, he drank six (6) Bud Light beers in two (2) hours and completed the tests. Later that evening, he consumed three (3) small glasses of tequila (subject reported heavy pours from the bartender), three Tecate beers, and up to two (2) other draft beers of unknown provenance or brand. He then completed two (2) of the tests but lost consciousness in his bed before a third test could be completed. On one final occasion, he drank one (1) fully caffeinated latte from a Brooklyn coffee shop called Kinfolk. Subject reported being frightened of drinking more coffee because he is usually influenced quite strongly by caffeine.
During the control, subject typed 284 total words and committed 3 errors, for an average corrected speed (a measure of correct words minus errors per minute) of 93.66 words per minute for an overall accuracy of 98.95 percent (Table 1).
After consuming six Bud Light beers, subject typed 276 total words and committed 13 errors, for an average corrected speed of 87.66 words per minute and an overall accuracy of 95.3 percent.
After consuming far more alcohol, subject typed 63 words and committed 16 errors in two minutes, for an average corrected speed of 23.5 words per minute for an overall accuracy of 74.7 percent. A third test wasn't completed.
After consuming marijuana, subject typed 274 total words and committed 7 errors, for an average corrected speed of 89 words per minute and overall accuracy of 97.5 percent.
After consuming caffeine, subject typed 303 words and committed 5 errors, for an average corrected speed of 99.33 words per minute and overall accuracy of 98.35%
This study examined the effect of psychoactive drugs on touch typing speed. As expected, all substances had a noticeable if subtle effect on typing speed and, just as interestingly, on the overall experience subject reported while conducting the experiment.
There appears to be a positively-associated correlation between the consumption of coffee and typing speed (Fig. 2) and it would perhaps behoove corporations to require all of their employees to consume some prior to any intense typing session (Fig. 3). Failing that, a motivated worker may want to consume coffee prior to attempting to transcribe an interview or taking notes during a major news event. The consumption of large amounts of alcohol prior to or during any intense typing-based communication session should be discouraged because it may facilitate many misunderstandings and create much frustration among both the typing and receiving party.
Subject reported feeling calm and focused while under the influence of marijuana but noted that any errors he made while typing noticeably distressed him and were difficult to recover from. Subject reported feeling more-or-less normal after six Bud Lights but he made noticeably more errors. Subject recalls being frustrated with his performance while taking the test after consuming significantly more alcohol but is impressed that he had the wherewithal to conduct the experiment and take screenshot evidence at 4 AM (Fig. 4). Subject's fingers moved noticeably faster while under the influence of coffee, which is borne out in the results.
For future studies, this researcher would like to perform the same study with new and different substances or perhaps larger quantities of the substances already tested, however he fears law enforcement action and addiction or other potentially adverse side effects. Finally, he believes that a larger sample size of participants would lead to results that actually mean something.
Researcher would like to thank his editors for dealing with this and would like to thank his mother for not reading this particular scientific study. This article has been peer reviewed, but probably not in the way you're used to.
Lit Up is a series about drugs and drug-like substances and practices. Follow along here.