I get Big Think’s daily Ideafeed email and they linked to a great post at BPS Research Digest called “How Thinking For Others Can Boost Your Creativity“. Post author, Christian Jarrett, deftly sums up some recent research results which demonstrate how people are more creative the more distance they have from the problem.
For example, test subjects were given scenarios such as how to escape through a window with only a rope half as long as needed. Consistently, test subjects came up with better solutions when told they were coming up with a solution for someone else as compared to coming up with an idea for their own escape. That surprised me. Maybe by distancing ourselves from the consequences, we allow ourselves to be more creative.
My regular readers have heard me say it before: speculative fiction serves a great purpose in that we can examine ethical, moral, and other dilemmas at a safe distance and come up with creative solutions in advance.
An example of this is at Discovery, where 10 futuristic solutions are profiled to deal with an asteroid on a collision course with Earth. Another example is how SF legend Arthur C. Clarke, of 2001: A Space Odyssey fame is credited with conceiving of the communication satellite.
Even though these examples seem grandiose. there are practical applications in the here and now. Check out the BPSRD article to find out how much better we are at choosing a gift for someone else’s loved one than our own!