ENHANCE – Cognitive Enhancement in Germany: Prevalence, Procurement Strategies, Causes, and Implications
The discussion on cognitive enhancement, i.e., the use of substances and other aids to increase mental performance without medical indication, has attracted increased media interest in recent years. It is often assumed that because of the growing demand on performance and the pursuit of success and perfection, an increasing number of people are turning to substances like caffeine tablets, methylphenidate, or amphetamines to improve their ability to concentrate, memorize, learn, and make decisions.
Some observers are in favor of cognitive enhancement as a means to improve productivity and quality of life as well as to reduce social inequalities. These views are outweighed by critical voices, who point out the risks of enhancement: undesirable personality changes, occasional severe side effects, the violation of ideas of fairness that potentially undermine performance motivation, and the illegal nature of the procurement of some remedies.
The ENHANCE project is a panel study on cognitive enhancement that is broadly representative of the German population. The study predominantly focuses on substance-based ways of improving performance (for instance, with prescription drugs and illegal substances) but it also investigates other biotechnological forms such as brain stimulation and genetic modification., ENHANCE explores factors such as the properties of performance-improving substances, personal characteristics, and social influences using both classic survey elements and experimental research strategies to explain the use of different enhancement means and attitudes towards it.
The results will be useful to better understand different cognitive enhancement practices and deliver insights for political decision-makers.