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Outside-the-box thinking literally can't be done inside a box, say profs

Trick cyclists in fridge-carton tomfoolishness

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Time-rich trick cyclists in Singapore and America have determined to their own satisfaction that it is actually much more difficult to think outside the box if you are, in reality, inside a large box at the time.

mime_in_box

Dumb...and in a box
Photo credit: Lighthelper.

They determined this by means of a series of experiments in which they measured the creative-thinking abilities of a group of subjects, some of whom carried out the tests while seated "inside a five-by-five-foot cardboard box" similar to an empty refrigerator carton, while others were outside the box.

According to Angela Leung of Singapore Management University and her colleagues, the people outside the box scored significantly better on "a test widely used to test creativity".

"We may consider getting away from Dilbert's cubicles and creating open office spaces to free up our minds," says Leung.

The psychologists also tested other "metaphors of creative thinking" found in everyday use. According to a recent statement issued by the US Association for Psychological Science:

In another experiment, some participants were asked to join the halves of cut-up coasters before taking a test — a physical representation of "putting two and two together." People who acted out the metaphor displayed more convergent thinking, a component of creativity that requires bringing together many possible answers to settle on one that will work. Other experiments found that walking freely generated more original ideas than walking in a set line; another found truth in "on the [one] hand; on the other hand."

Presumably still other ploys involved flagpoles, toasters, spitballs, attempts to saddle up babies and soar into the skies astride them etc.

Leung and her colleagues' tomfoolery is to be published in the journal Psychological Science ("the highest ranked empirical journal in psychology"). Or you can read it here if you really want to. ®

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