Thursday, March 8, 2012

Outside the Box

As part of my project this year of living a more richly creative life, with the ultimate goal of writing a book that will surprise me, I'm paying attention to discussions in the media about how to enhance creativity. So I was struck by an article from a recent Sunday New York Times: "When Truisms Are True."

In this piece, the authors report on their research into "embodied cognition." They argue that when people literally act out various metaphors for creative thinking with their BODIES, their MINDS come up with a greater and wider array of solutions to creative tasks posed. Research subjects situated inside a boxed structure came up with fewer creative solutions than did research subjects positioned "outside the box." Research subjects set to solve a problem while walking on a prescribed path approached the task less creatively than those allowed to walk at will while thinking. The authors summarize their findings: "The differences were striking: students who walked freely were better at generating creative uses for the objects — coming up with over 25 percent more original ideas. Such creativity was assessed in terms of fluency (the number of ideas generated), flexibility (the number of unique categories that described the generated ideas) and originality (as judged by independent raters)."

So THIS is why it was a good thing indeed that I got off the beaten path this past weekend and drove a hundred and fifty miles without a map. And now, on my next walk around Greencastle, I'm not going to retrace my usual route; I'll just walk hither and thither willy-nilly. It's outside the box for me!

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