Movement turned out to be the key to creative thinking


Scientists have shown that movement restrictions have a negative effect on creative thinking.

In today’s world there is a growing demand for creative thinking and a search for means to develop creativity in oneself. In addition to the techniques already known — the use of switching between “diffuse” and “directional” ways of thinking — scientists are on the lookout for new ones. One such way that researchers have turned their attention to has been movement and its effect on creativity.

Researchers from the University of Würzburg drew attention to a pattern known since the days of ancient Greece: free movement helps to think more flexibly and vividly and leads to new ideas. The study, the results of which were published in the journal Psychological Research, was conducted on 60 subjects. In order to test whether free movement without any restrictions really affects creative thinking, scientists conducted three different experiments. In each of these experiments, participants had to solve a “Guilford alternative use” task. They were given a series of words for objects — bandage, brick, chair, table, pan, garbage bag, lipstick, pencil, newspaper, shoe, spoon, tile, toothbrush, and towel. Participants had to name as many uses for these items as possible.

In the first experiment, half of the participants were allowed to walk around the room while they generated ideas, while the rest had to sit quietly at the computer and not leave their seat. It turned out that the number of ideas generated by participants who were allowed to walk around the room was higher than those who were forced to sit in one place. In the second and third experiments, researchers compared the number of generated ideas in participants who could 1) move freely around the room, 2) move only by a pre-determined route, 3) sit quietly in one place, and 4) sit at a computer screen and fix their gaze on one point. In this case, the results were highest for participants who could either move freely around the room, or sit in one place, but not fix their gaze on the screen and make at least small movements (for example, tapping their fingers on the table).

Scientists have shown that the presence of any restrictions significantly reduces creativity. According to the researchers, it’s important that movements aren’t suppressed and turned into regular patterns during creative thinking.  This can happen when people focus, for example, on a small screen — a cell phone, tablet or similar devices. Thus, the increased use of cell phones and similar devices-including in education during the coronavirus pandemic-could potentially have a negative impact on some cognitive processes, such as creativity.

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