SURPRISING WAYS TO THINK MORE CREATIVELY

A new study reported in the Daily Health News shows that creative solutions actually may depend on us, well, physically stepping outside our environmental “box”…..

……whether that’s a cubicle at work or a room at home. In other words, taking your body to a different spot can jiggle your mind loose so it thinks creatively.

This is not the first study to show that using or moving our bodies can affect our minds—for instance, previous studies had shown that holding a warm (versus a cold) drink increased people’s perceptions of a stranger as having a warm personality…and that walking backward and forward cues memories of either past events or thoughts of future events, respectively. But the coauthor of this new study, Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks, PhD, an associate professor of management and organizations at University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business in Ann Arbor, told me that this new research provides the first evidence that bodily experiences actually can help generate novel ideas to solve problems. So, how do you do it?

BRIGHT IDEAS

Dr. Sanchez-Burks and his colleagues performed the following experiments…

  • Thinking outside the box: About 100 college students were asked to generate a word (such as “tape”) that related to each of three presented cue words (such as “measure,” “worm” and “video”). Participants were randomly assigned to do this while either sitting inside a five-foot-by-five-foot box constructed of plastic pipe and cardboard that was covered with a lid and lighted inside…or while sitting outside (but nearby) the box. Those outside the box generated 20% more related words than those stuck in the box. It’s certainly an interesting finding, but, of course, I have to imagine that literally sitting inside a confining box might have been so weird and off-putting that it could have halted the imaginative skills of those inside of it!

On the other hand, what is an office cubicle if not a box?

  • Free-walking = free thinking: About 100 college students were shown images of objects made of LEGO toy blocks, such as dinosaurs or stairs, and were asked to think of original uses for the objects. Some participants walked along a fixed rectangular path marked with duct tape on the floor, while others could walk freely around the lab as they wished. The students who walked freely came up with about 25% more original uses for the LEGO creations than those who walked along the preset path. In this case, I do wonder whether having to walk the path took so much attention that it left little brainpower for creativity.
  • “On one hand” and then “on the other hand”: About 40 college students were asked during two trials to think of novel potential uses for a new university complex. During the first trial, the students were also asked to lift and hold their right hands outstretched while coming up with the ideas. During the second trial, half of the students were asked to again lift the right hand while coming up with additional ideas…and the other half of the students were asked to instead lift the left hand. The result: Those who were told to switch hands—embodying thinking of the problem “on one hand” and “on the other hand”—logged 50% more ideas than those raising just the same hand.

The study will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science.

STIR YOUR MIND

So why did these physical tricks seem to unleash creative thinking? Dr. Sanchez-Burks told me that prior research suggests that the “on one hand” and “on the other hand” metaphor activates both sides of the brain, enhancing its ability to creatively solve problems. But he said that it’s not yet known why the other mind-body metaphors seem to work as well as they do. More research is needed to figure out what’s going on in the brain to make it happen, he said. He added that when your physical space is limited, your cognitive space may tend to be limited as well—so simply surrounding yourself with more space may allow you to think more freely.

What this all suggests: It’s hard to just think your way out of the proverbial box. So when you’re stuck on solving a problem—whether it’s related to finances, a relationship, a project at work or something else—Dr. Sanchez-Burks suggests changing your environment by heading toward a more open space and, ideally, moving around. That might mean taking a walk outside or even just moving from your office to the kitchen or from the kitchen to the den—this simple switch may stimulate your brain more than you realize!

Source: Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks, PhD, associate professor, management and organizations, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.

SURPRISING WAYS TO THINK MORE CREATIVELY

A new study reported in the Daily Health News shows that creative solutions actually may depend on us, well, physically stepping outside our environmental “box”…..

……whether that’s a cubicle at work or a room at home. In other words, taking your body to a different spot can jiggle your mind loose so it thinks creatively.

This is not the first study to show that using or moving our bodies can affect our minds—for instance, previous studies had shown that holding a warm (versus a cold) drink increased people’s perceptions of a stranger as having a warm personality…and that walking backward and forward cues memories of either past events or thoughts of future events, respectively. But the coauthor of this new study, Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks, PhD, an associate professor of management and organizations at University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business in Ann Arbor, told me that this new research provides the first evidence that bodily experiences actually can help generate novel ideas to solve problems. So, how do you do it?

BRIGHT IDEAS

Dr. Sanchez-Burks and his colleagues performed the following experiments…

  • Thinking outside the box: About 100 college students were asked to generate a word (such as “tape”) that related to each of three presented cue words (such as “measure,” “worm” and “video”). Participants were randomly assigned to do this while either sitting inside a five-foot-by-five-foot box constructed of plastic pipe and cardboard that was covered with a lid and lighted inside…or while sitting outside (but nearby) the box. Those outside the box generated 20% more related words than those stuck in the box. It’s certainly an interesting finding, but, of course, I have to imagine that literally sitting inside a confining box might have been so weird and off-putting that it could have halted the imaginative skills of those inside of it!

On the other hand, what is an office cubicle if not a box?

  • Free-walking = free thinking: About 100 college students were shown images of objects made of LEGO toy blocks, such as dinosaurs or stairs, and were asked to think of original uses for the objects. Some participants walked along a fixed rectangular path marked with duct tape on the floor, while others could walk freely around the lab as they wished. The students who walked freely came up with about 25% more original uses for the LEGO creations than those who walked along the preset path. In this case, I do wonder whether having to walk the path took so much attention that it left little brainpower for creativity.
  • “On one hand” and then “on the other hand”: About 40 college students were asked during two trials to think of novel potential uses for a new university complex. During the first trial, the students were also asked to lift and hold their right hands outstretched while coming up with the ideas. During the second trial, half of the students were asked to again lift the right hand while coming up with additional ideas…and the other half of the students were asked to instead lift the left hand. The result: Those who were told to switch hands—embodying thinking of the problem “on one hand” and “on the other hand”—logged 50% more ideas than those raising just the same hand.

The study will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science.

STIR YOUR MIND

So why did these physical tricks seem to unleash creative thinking? Dr. Sanchez-Burks told me that prior research suggests that the “on one hand” and “on the other hand” metaphor activates both sides of the brain, enhancing its ability to creatively solve problems. But he said that it’s not yet known why the other mind-body metaphors seem to work as well as they do. More research is needed to figure out what’s going on in the brain to make it happen, he said. He added that when your physical space is limited, your cognitive space may tend to be limited as well—so simply surrounding yourself with more space may allow you to think more freely.

What this all suggests: It’s hard to just think your way out of the proverbial box. So when you’re stuck on solving a problem—whether it’s related to finances, a relationship, a project at work or something else—Dr. Sanchez-Burks suggests changing your environment by heading toward a more open space and, ideally, moving around. That might mean taking a walk outside or even just moving from your office to the kitchen or from the kitchen to the den—this simple switch may stimulate your brain more than you realize!

Source: Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks, PhD, associate professor, management and organizations, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.

css.php