Scientifically-Proven Ways to Improve Creativity

Fourteen acts or mindsets that have been shown–using science!–to increase creativity, from a two-article series on scientifically-proven methods to increase your creativity:

  1. Psychological distance: Imagine your creative task as distant and disconnected from your current location.
  2. Chronological distance: Project yourself or the task forward in time.
  3. Absurdist stimulation: Read some Kafka: absurdity is a ‘meaning threat’, making our mind work harder to find meaning and enhancing pattern recognition abilities.
  4. Use highly emotional states: Highly-charged emotional states increase problem solving and flexible thinking.
  5. Combine opposites: ‘Janusian thinking‘ helps integrative ideas emerge.
  6. Take resistive paths: The path of least resistance typically leads to ideas lacking in creativity (as they’re inherently built on existing ideas).
  7. Re-conceptualisation: Re-conceive the problem in different ways before trying to solve it, focusing on discovery at the problem-formulation stage.
  8. Counterfactual mindset: Two types of ‘what could have been’ thinking:
    • Subtractive for analytical problems (what could have been removed?).
    • Additive for expansive problems (what could have been added?).
  9. Two simultaneous problems: Multiple concurrent problems help the recall of previous creative solutions that may be related.
  10. Generic verbs: Focus on abstract rather than specific details of the problem (by thinking of problem-specific verbs in more generic terms).
  11. Synonyms and category taxonomies: Look at the problem category or type and discover hidden structures (by thinking of problem-specific details as synonyms and category taxonomies).
  12. Engage conflict: Social conflicts give us intense motivated focus.
  13. Think love not sex: Thoughts of love shift our minds to a long-term viewpoint while sexual thoughts shift them to the immediate, which is more analytical.
  14. Stop daydreaming: Somewhat against Csikszentmihalyi’s advice, incubation has shows minimal creative improvements. However its advantage may be in that it helps us forget previous bad ideas.

Alternatively you could take advice from Grayson Perry:

Being creative is all about being unself-conscious; being prepared to make a bit of a fool of myself. In my experience, embarrassment is not fatal. […] I’d like to make a plea for difficulty over cool. In the end, being difficult is the coolest thing you can be.



One response to “Scientifically-Proven Ways to Improve Creativity”

  1. […] Ways to Improve Creativity by aaron golbeck on July 19, 2010 This is taken verbatim from Lone Gunman. (link courtesy Evan Parsons’ […]