The value of cultural contrast and imagination

If you’re struggling to be creative, here’s some good news.

Two fairly new studies on creativity have released their findings. The results from these creativity experiments ‒ while not entirely surprising ‒ can be helpful if you need a little creativity boost.

One study finds exploring contrasts and commonalities between cultures helps unlock creativity – news that would not surprise Picasso, who was strongly influenced by African art. The second suggests seeding the imagination is as simple as allowing yourself to think like a 7-year-old.

During the first study, participants were asked to re‒write the classic “Cinderella” fairytale in their own way, specifically for Turkish children.

The participants were split into groups, one group which jumped right into the work, another group which was shown a 45‒minute presentation of American culture through photos, videos, and movie trailers, another group which was shown a presentation of Chinese culture, and yet another group that was first shown a presentation of both American and Chinese cultures back‒to‒back.

At the end of the study, researchers found that participants who were able to compare and contrast the different cultures produced stories that were full of creativity and imagination.

Angela Ka-yee Leung of Singapore Management University describes five studies that show “multicultural experiences can provide a valuable cognitive resource for creative thinking.”

For the second creativity study, participants ‒ 76 college undergraduates ‒ were asked to write what they would do, think, and feel if school was canceled for the day.

Half of the participants were asked to pretend that they were “seven years old.”

At the end of the second study, researchers found that the group who imagined they were seven produced higher levels of originality in their papers than the control group.

Looking at practical applications, the researchers suggest games and “guided imagery exercises designed to facilitate a childlike mindset” could help foster originality in both the classroom and the workplace.

If you’re looking to inspire your creativity, try contrasting the differences between cultures or pretending like your a child again. Two ideas that are proven to help you be more creative, and both of which are mentioned in my upcoming creativity book: Unstuck, the book.

As a note: if you’re curious how these studies graded creativity ‒ which is no easy task, in my opinion ‒ they used a version of the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking.