Category: Creativity

Aha! moments give a “ring of truth” to completely unrelated statements

By Matthew Warren

Word puzzles are all the rage right now. But if you’ve already done today’s Wordle, here are some anagrams to keep you going until tomorrow:

Reality is only a matter of…..   tvesrecipep

Free will is a powerful….. oinliusl

If you managed to solve the anagrams at the end of these statements, you may have experienced a “Eureka” or “Aha!” moment, in which the solution suddenly seemed to appear, perhaps accompanied by a sense of happiness or relief. And if you did, according to a new study in Scientific Reports, you’d be more likely to believe that the statement itself is true.

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When we see ourselves as mere mortal animals, creative pursuits may help to assuage a fear of death

By Emma Young

How similar do you think humans are to other animals? The answer might reveal more than you think: according to new research, people who perceive themselves as being more similar to other animals are more likely to care about being creative, and to engage with the arts. Why? It’s all to do with how we manage death anxiety, argue Uri Lifshin at Reichman University, Israel, and colleagues, in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

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Striving For Perfection, Rather Than Excellence, Can Kill Creativity

By Emily Reynolds

Perfectionism can be a useful trait: striving always to do better, perfectionists may be more likely to thrive academically or accomplish other achievements. But it comes with downsides, too: links with suicidal ideation, burnout, and reduced engagement at work.

One common critique of perfectionism is that it kills creativity, and it’s this question Jean-Christophe Goulet-Pelletier and team from the University of Ottawa, Ontario, explore in a paper in the British Journal of Psychology. They find that shooting for greatness, rather than perfection, can lead to higher creativity and increased openness to experience.

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Ability To Name Unrelated Words Is A Good Test Of Creativity

By Emma L. Barratt

Obtaining a solid measurement of creativity can be hugely time consuming. Well-established tests — such as the Alternative Uses Task (AUT), which asks participants to generate unusual ways to use common objects — require substantial time and effort in order to properly score participant responses. Not only that, but assessment of the creativity of responses varies wildly as a result of both the scorers’ judgements and the qualities of answers relative to the rest of the data. For example, one especially creative response amongst a sea of generic responses may garner extra points; place that same answer amongst other highly creative responses, however, and it is likely to score lower.

But take heart, overstretched researchers — a new paper in PNAS suggests there may be an easier, more reliable way to measure creativity.

In an effort to combat these issues, researchers led by Jay A. Olson from Harvard University have attempted to streamline the process by devising a new task which can be easily analysed by a computer algorithm.

Their research suggests that the newly created measure — the Divergent Association Task (DAT) — may be at least as effective at measuring verbal creativity as other, more widely known creativity measures, with the added bonuses of being both shorter and more enjoyable to participants.

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Eureka Moments Have A “Dark Side”: They Can Make False Facts Seem True

GettyImages-493584274.jpgBy Matthew Warren

We love a puzzle here at Research Digest — so here’s a couple from a recent paper in Cognition. See whether you can unscramble the anagrams in the following sentences (read on for the answers!):

The Cocos Islands are part of idnionsea

eeebyoshn kill more people worldwide each year than all poisonous snakes combined

If you successfully solved the anagrams, you may have experienced an “Aha!” or “Eureka” moment: a flash of insight where the solution suddenly becomes clear, perhaps after you have spent a while completely stumped. Usually when we experience these moments we have indeed arrived at the correct answer — they don’t tend to occur as much when we’ve stumbled upon an incorrect solution. And in fact, researchers have suggested that we even use Aha! moments as a quick way to judge the veracity of a solution or idea — they provide a kind of gut feeling which tells us that what has just popped into our mind is probably correct.

But relying on these experiences to gauge the truth of an idea can sometimes backfire, according to the authors of the new paper. The team found that experiencing sudden moments of insight when deciphering a statement can make people more likely to believe that it is true — even when it isn’t.

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Episode 18: How To Boost Your Creativity

Boy draws with a brush a big light bulb. Concept of innovation and creativity

This is Episode 18 of PsychCrunch, the podcast from the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest, sponsored by Routledge Psychology. Download here.

Can psychology help us become more creative? Our presenter Ginny Smith learns how we can develop our creativity with practice, and discovers that our best “Eureka” moments often come when we step away from the task at hand. She also investigates how members of the public fare with the riddles psychologists use to study creative problem solving — see how you get on at home.

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“Lack Of Scientific Proof” That Microdosing Psychedelic Drugs Improves Wellbeing Or Creativity

LSD caps and tweezers on wood

By Emma Young

“Microdosing” psychedelic drugs involves regularly taking amounts so tiny that they don’t impair a person’s normal functioning, but — it’s claimed — subtly enhance wellbeing, concentration and creativity. In May, for example, the Digest reported on a study that found hints of reduced stress and increased emotional intensity among people who microdosed LSD and psilocybin, from ‘magic’ mushrooms.

However, we also stressed that there has been little research into the technique — and now a review of the field published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology concludes that while the popularity of microdosing has exploded over the past eight years, knowledge about what it actually does remains patchy and anecdotal. In fact, there are still far more questions about the technique than answers, write Kim Kuypers at Maastricht University, and her colleagues.

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Thinking About Their Multiple Identities Boosts Children’s Creativity And Problem-Solving Skills

GettyImages-478513620.jpgBy Christian Jarrett

It usually helps to “get a fresh pair of eyes” on a problem, especially from someone with a different perspective than your own. But what if you could find a variety of vantage points from within yourself? After all, each of us has multiple roles and identities in life. In a new paper in Developmental Science, a team led by Sarah Gaither at Duke University presents evidence that prompting children to think about their own multiple identities boosts their problem-solving skills and increases their flexible thinking.

“Someone can be a woman and White, a teacher and a parent, a girl and a friend,” the researchers write. “Although individuals may not automatically reflect on their multiple identities, here we propose that when they do, it may have positive consequences for their creative problem solving and flexible thinking.”

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Study Finds Microdosing Psychedelics Can Be Beneficial, But Not In The Way That Users Most Expect

GettyImages-967113414.jpgBy Christian Jarrett

What if you could take a psychedelic drug regularly in such tiny quantities that the immediate effects were not discernible, yet over time it led to a range of psychological benefits, especially enhanced focus and heightened creativity? That’s the principle behind “microdosing” – a controversial technique that’s exploded in popularity ever since the publication of a 2011 book The Psychedelic Explorers Guide and a 2015 Rolling Stone article titled How LSD Microdosing Became The Hot New Business Trip. Large online communities of microdosing enthusiasts have since emerged on sites like Reddit, where dosing tips are shared and the supposed manifold benefits of the practice are espoused.

However, actual scientific investigations into the effects of microdosing can be counted on one hand. Earlier this year, PLOS One published one of the few systematic investigations ever conducted into the practice, by Vince Polito and Richard Stevenson at Macquarie University. Though exploratory and tentative due to “legal and bureaucratic” obstacles (meaning there was no placebo control or randomisation in this research), the results suggest that microdosing can be beneficial, although not in the ways that users most expect, and not necessarily for everyone.

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New Study Finds Strength Of Imagination Not Associated With Creative Ability Or Achievement

GettyImages-169937637.jpgBy Emma Young

Imagination is sometimes claimed to be a uniquely human ability, and it has long intrigued psychologists. “Nevertheless, our understanding of the benefits and risks that individual differences in imagination hold for psychological outcomes is currently limited,” note two researchers who have created a new psychometric test – the Imaginative Behaviour Engagement Scale (IBES) – for measuring how much imagination a person has, and then used it to investigate whether, as some earlier work hinted, having a stronger imagination might aid learning and creativity. 

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