Want to stimulate your creativity? Tomorrow morning, eat cereals instead of a sandwich. Or take an alternative route to your work. Shaking up everyday rituals can boost your innovative thinking, according to a new study.
Avoiding conventional behavior “can help people break their cognitive patterns, and thus lead them to think more flexibly and creatively,” according to a research team led by social psychologist Simone Ritter of Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands.
The research team conducted a culinary assignment to test how changing breakfast-making patterns can boost creativity. Some participants were asked to prepare a traditional Dutch sandwich with chocolate sprinkles in a conventional manner, while others first put chocolate chips on a plate, then buttered a slice of bread and finally “placed the bread butter-side-down on the dish with the chocolate chips.” After making breakfast, the subjects were asked to come up with as many answers to the questions: What makes sound?” or “What can you do with a brick?” to measure their cognitive flexibility. According to the researchers, a high cognitive flexibility score indicates an ability to switch between categories, overcome fixedness, and thus think more creativity.
The researchers found that the group who prepared their sandwich in an unconventional manner had higher scores on the tests. This indicates that even a little change in daily life can affect a person’s cognitive flexibility. According to Ritter, the finding can easily be put in practice. “Start a college or a brainstorming session with something unexpected and you’ll find that it is easier for participants to think outside the box.”
Ritter, S., Damian, R., Simonton, D., van Baaren, R., Strick, M., Derks, J., & Dijksterhuis, A. (2012). Diversifying Experiences Enhance Cognitive Flexibility Journal of Experimental Social Psychology DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2012.02.009
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