The Science of Imagination: Uncanny Creativity 35

Imagination is an invisible force. Until we express through action, that is. Scientists are increasingly researching the benefits, changes, and power of imagination. This episode of the Uncanny Creativity Podcast takes a look at 9 studies that use the scientific method to measure imagination.

Study 1: Children and Imagination

Children today are more using their imaginations more than in the 1980s. Comparing 14 studies between 1982 and 2008 that used the same scale, creativity was tested in unstructured child’s play. Kids today are more comfortable using their imagination. They also use less negative imagery. The experiment was published in the Creativity Research Journal. Case Western University have a video overview of their study:

Study 2: A new form of IQ.

The Imagination Quotient is a new way to measure individual ability to develop new ways of looking at tasks. The Imagination Institute at the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania launched the idea. In addition to a traditional intelligence quotient, this test looks at grit, determination, passion, inspiration and growth.

Inspiration is the main quality here. It’s defined in three parts: First, spontaneous thought develops without intention. Second, the motivation transcends animalistic needs, Finally, action is taken to express a new idea.

Study 3: Walking makes you more creative.

Walking leads to more creative thinking. After a 30 minute walk, the walking participants came up with more creative responses compared to those who were sitting. This study was published by the American Psychological Association. They tried treadmills, outdoor walks, indoor, and outdoor sitting. Walking was the key factor.

Study 4: Imagination changes reality.

Participants were asked to imagine patterns. When viewing patterns containing a variety of similar ideas, participants reported similar shapes to what they were told to imagine. Their imaginations impacted their views of the real world! This was published by Psychological Science.

Study 5: Imagination changes memory.

Beginning in the 1990s, a series of experiments demonstrate how imagining events may make us believe in things that happened. This has since been termed imagination inflation. The more familiar the memory becomes, the more our mind believes we really experienced it. In the initial experiment subjects selected from a set of childhood events. Then they were asked to imagine a few events. For example, they were asked to imagine breaking a window as a child. They imagined details and emotions. Later, they seemed to believe they broke the window when they were a child.

Study 7: Creativity and Noise

The best noise level for creative tasks and abstract thinking is the average noise level of a coffee shop. Ambient noise was found to be helpful for creativity at a moderate level. A high noise level hurt creative output.

Study 8: Mess helps creativity.

Physical order is helpful for making healthy choices. Order also helps you be more generous and conventional. A messy space is better for creativity. This set of experiments placed participants in both environments and compared how well they completed various tasks.

Study 9: An active imagination is healthy.

Creativity has a strong correlation with better physical health. Creative work and unpaid creativity activity were healthier than those who were not creatively active.

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

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