Keith Sawyer points to a remarkable study that shows how exposure to the outdoors enhances creativity. The mechanisms are unclear, but it could be that there is a sense of possibility that comes from the outdoors due to the expanded boundaries of perception. By that, I think of how the topography, fauna and flora constantly present novelty and new combinations that are not seen when you are on screen. With our computers and tech tools, the format of information is presented in ways that are relatively consistent moment to moment and introduce little novelty. It’s an idea, but certainly its something to look at with more detail. So for now, the lesson might be to take a vacation from your tech and get outside if you want to spur creative problem solving.
I just read about a fascinating new study* that examined 56 people who went on an Outward Bound wilderness expedition. No electronic devices were allowed on the trips. Of the 56 people, 24 took a creativity test before they left for the trip. The other 32 took the test out in the wilderness, on the fourth day of the trip…after four days disconnected from the grid. These 32 people scored 50% higher on the creativity test than the 24 people who hadn’t yet started their trip! The intriguing implication is that those four days enhanced creativity.
The test they used was the Remote Associates Test (RAT). The way it works is that you’re given three words, and your task is to identify a fourth “target word” that is related to all three of those words. For example, an answer to SAME/TENNIS/HEAD would be MATCH (because a match is the same…
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