Are you brave enough to be creative? cover image

Are you brave enough to be creative?

Dorian Minors • July 1, 2015

This is an archived article from our predecessor website, The Dirt Psychology. The idea there was to take psychological scholarship and turn it into wisdom. The Armchair Collective tries to go a little further than just psychology. As such, these articles live here in archive form, until they're updated.

Into yoga? Because I'm about to talk about yoga that'll work your creative flexibility (and by the time I'm finished, you might be into actual yoga too). You might have noticed that the more creative people are often more noticeably different. You might say 'weird' (knowing full well that what you get up to in the shower is bizarre by any standard). The more accurate term might be 'unusual'. They tend to dress a little more unusually than your everyday person. Talk a little more unusually. Be interested in more unusual stuff and engage in more unusual activities and experiences.

But do they do more unusual stuff or does more unusual stuff happen to them?

As early as the 1970's, studies were picking up on an interesting relationship between 'unusual and unexpected events' and creativity. For example, multiculturalism and living abroad have both been connected quite robustly to creativity. Now I hear you thinking, 'maybe more creative people travel more'. And certainly, it was often assumed that creative people did more creative things leading to more diverse experiences. But we've also linked creativity to parental loss, and it was hard to explain that sort of finding away.

Unusual experiences boost our creativityUnknown

Well, Simone Ritter and her colleagues tested whether a weird experience would have an effect on our creativity and found that:

a diversifying experience—defined as the active (but not vicarious) involvement in an unusual event—increased cognitive flexibility more than active (or vicarious) involvement in normal experiences

To put it in simple terms, personally getting involved (as opposed to hearing it from others) in an unusual experience seems to boost our brain's ability to adapt and function outside its normal patterns.

Get creative

If Dr Ritter and her friends did it in the lab, it means that almost certainly you can do it in your everyday life. Go and do something that's new and unusual. Sit outside your comfort zone. Your creative flexibility will see a boost. It's like yoga for the mind (and if you're not into yoga, I'm sure that's a good enough place to start).

Turning scholarship into wisdom we can use at The Armchair Collective.

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Dorian Minors

I mostly do brain science. Sometimes I train honeybees. I promise they're related. I made this site because there's no reason why scholars should be the only ones to own knowledge. My special interests are interpersonal relationships, the science of community, spirituality and the brain, and the neural basis of complex behaviour. I hope this stuff is as interesting to you as it is to me. You can find out more about me here.