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Using Research to Enhance Creative Thinking – Part 2

In Part 1 of this post, I mentioned two articles that refer to multiple research studies; here are more excerpts from those articles, plus additional material.

In “The science of creativity,” Amy Novotney notes a study at Harvard Medical School in which creativity researchers suggest sleeping on a problem.

Psychologist Deirde Barrett, PhD “asked her students to imagine a problem they were trying to solve before going to sleep and found that they were able to come up with novel solutions in their dreams.

“In the study, published in Dreaming (Vol. 3, No. 2), half of the participants reported having dreams that addressed their chosen problems, and a quarter came up with solutions in their dreams.”

“We’re in a different biochemical state when we’re dreaming, and that’s why I think dreams can be so helpful anytime we’re stuck in our usual mode of thinking,” Barrett says.

Book: The Committee of Sleep: How Artists, Scientists, and Athletes Use their Dreams for Creative Problem Solving-and How You Can Too, by Deirdre Barrett, PhD.

Also see my earlier post More Daydreaming, More Creativity.

Novotney quotes creativity researcher Jonathan Plucker, PhD, a psychology professor at Indiana University: “As strange as it sounds, creativity can become a habit. Making it one helps you become more productive.”

Collaboration – or not

She adds, “Plucker notes that much psychological research has shown that we overestimate the success of group brainstorming. Instead of working together to generate great ideas, group members often fail to share their ideas for fear of rejection.

“Yet research led by psychologist Paul Paulus, PhD, of the University of Texas at Arlington, points to the surprising effectiveness of group ‘brainwriting,’ in which group members write their ideas on paper and pass them to others in the group who then add their own ideas to the list.”

She notes that in a study led by Paulus, “an interactive group of brainwriters produced 28 percent more possible uses for a paper clip than a similar group of solitary brainwriters. This may be because group members tend to build off one another’s ideas, leading to increased creativity and innovation. The effects of group brainwriting may even extend to groups that collaborate via e-mail, Paulus notes.”

Jonathan Plucker, PhD is author of a chapter in Creativity 101, by James C. Kaufman.

Book: Group Creativity: Innovation through Collaboration, by Paul B. Paulus and Bernard A. Nijstad.

The article “15 Scientific Facts About Creativity” by Online Universities lists a number of brief references to research studies, some of which I mentioned in Part 1 of this post. Here are another two items.

Bilingualism and multilingualism

“Individuals capable of speaking more than one language generally display more competent multitasking skills and improved cognition, both usually labeled key ingredients to creative thinking,” the article says.

Other articles support that idea, such as one that comments, “When asked how many of his contemporary Nobel Prize winners were bilingual, Ilya Prigogine (Nobel Prize for Chemistry, 1977) who spoke Russian, French and English and taught through French and English, replied, ‘the majority’ (personal communication) – a statement that should provide food for thought for those who believe multilingual skills may hamper scientific creativity.”

From Multilingualism, Cognition and Creativity, by Hugo Baetens Beardsmore, International CLIL Research Journal.

So learning another language could be good not only for your vacation or business trip to another country, but for your creative thinking. Rosetta Stone offers many computer-based language learning programs.

Step away

The article notes that “psychological distance” facilitates creativity, and “when hitting a creative snag, the best thing thinkers can do for themselves is step away and try to look at everything from a completely different point of view.

“Studies have shown that the most consistently creative individuals display a willingness to approach their challenges from a wide variety of angles beyond their initial inklings. Putting some space between original perspectives and newer ones encourages abstract thinking, a crucial component in the inventive process.”

That reminds me of a quote by Leonardo da Vinci:

“It is also good every so often to go away and relax a little for when you come back to your work your judgment will be better, since to remain constantly at work causes you to deceive yourself.”

From my post Developing Creativity: Both High Energy and Rest.

Throughout the Creative Mind posts, I have included research findings that indicate ways to enhance our creativity and innovation. So explore the many other posts by following the links at the left, under Categories and Archives.

Image: poster based on quote of Pablo Picasso: “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” Posted in one of my boards on Pinterest: The Creative Mind, with a link to the poster for sale by the artist, on


Using Research to Enhance Creative Thinking – Part 2

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2012). Using Research to Enhance Creative Thinking – Part 2. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 25, 2020, from


Last updated: 2 Jun 2012
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