On the Brain: Thinking more creatively
December 15th, 2010
05:17 PM ET

On the Brain: Thinking more creatively

Just want to have fun? Two pieces of recent research suggest that getting in a good mood helps you perform better at certain tasks and be more creative.

A new study in Psychological Science exposed participants to music clips and YouTube videos that were supposed to put people in specific mood states.  For instance, a video for a laughing baby was "positive," "Antiques Roadshow" TV show was "neutral," and a news report of a Chinese earthquake was "negative." After volunteers listened to music and watched clips characteristic of one of these three moods, they had to do a task that involved learning a rule to categorize a particular pattern.

Researchers at the University of Western Ontario found that the "happy" participants performed better than "sad" or "neutral" volunteers at this task.

So, the authors say, maybe watching an occasional funny video on YouTube at work may actually help your creativity by putting you in a good mood.

Along those lines, researchers at Northwestern University have found that humor was key to people's ability to solve puzzles. One of the study authors, neuroscientist Mark Beeman, told the New York Times he thinks "that the humor, this positive mood, is lowering the brain’s threshold for detecting weaker or more remote connections” to solve puzzles.

Beeman and colleagues have previously done brain imaging studies of people who are about to do a puzzle prior to actually seeing the task. It appears that some people's brains, in this situation, have a particular mark of activity associated with positive moods. And those are the people also more likely to use their insight to solve puzzles, rather than using trial and error, the New York Times reported.

Apparently, you can get your brain in that state with some good humor, researchers say.  It helps you think broadly and actually see more.

How else can you boost your creativity? Business Insider has these tips on boosting your creativity using brain science.  For instance, find an activity such as showering or taking a walk that stimulates your thinking.  Find a place free of distraction that allows your prefrontal cortex to make connections between different ideas.  And sometimes you need to forget about your problem entirely for a while before coming back at it with a really innovative solution.

soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. Bob

    Meditation gives a big boost to brain power! Be happy , meditate and laugh!

    December 16, 2010 at 09:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. johnqpublic

    Maybe reading this will keep my wife from watching Dateline and 60 minutes all the time and get up and do something active or fun!

    December 16, 2010 at 09:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. micheledw

    Great piece, but someone might want to do a little proof reading before posting next time (i.e. the first and fourth paragraph.)

    December 16, 2010 at 10:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • elandau

      I made some clarifying tweaks at your suggestion; thanks for reading!

      December 16, 2010 at 13:38 | Report abuse |
  4. Joe

    Another junk research in psychology

    December 16, 2010 at 10:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. razzlea

    When these studies comes out do they actually authenticate them or they just beleive their findings I wonder. http://razzlea.blogspot.com/

    December 16, 2010 at 11:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Joe

      They have to publish or perish, and that's why they have to blow their own horn.

      December 16, 2010 at 12:37 | Report abuse |
  6. woodie

    This maybe contradicts the belief that having an impassive view of the results of a task makes you more creative at the task. In other words, if you are neither happy or sad, you have a greater potential for creative ideas, primarily because you are not being influenced by the possible outcome. A happy mood with only generate happy outcomes and a sad mood will only create negative outcomes, and no mood will create any possible outcome. This says meditation, or acheiving no state, is the most productive creative state.

    December 16, 2010 at 14:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. chimera1103

    this study is supposedly about "creativity" but nothing in the study seems to have actually tested creativity. I've never heard of creativity as being displayed in the "ability to learn a rule and follow a pattern"!!!! WOW! Isn't that the opposite of creativity???? IM SO CONFUSED! And then it mentions solving puzzles. Talk about something uncreative. the "solving" of a puzzle is to believe that there is only one possible solution, reached by a systematic method of trial and error until the desired outcome is reached, however, it is not creative! the creative person invents a NEW solution!

    December 16, 2010 at 14:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. swap42

    Creativity works differently in different people, it'd be very difficult to come up with standard measures for everyone across the board... doesn't mean it isn't worth studying or thinking about. I'm just guessing that the naysayers here don't have creative occupations, where they have to find by trial and error what makes them most creative – for me, moving to a different part of the room can make a big difference, or leaving and coming back an hour later, or just looking at the sky for a while.

    December 16, 2010 at 14:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Char

    Taking a brief mental break to read an inspiring article, watching something funny or beautiful can help one stay motivated to complete tedious or mundane tasks. I also find meditation on a beautiful object can help free your mind of stress and worries which enables one's subconcious mind to somehow connect with the conscious mind, often resulting in one experiencing deep insights, having great ideas and is also useful for problem solving. Try it. It does work. If you need help relaxing, you might try watching a relaxation video such as those made by Serenity Moments at http://www.serenitymoments.com

    December 16, 2010 at 19:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Kumar

    Yes, you are right. The positive mood changes the behavior of everyone. It helps building the brain power and mental strengths. More and more brain research supports the idea that our brain functioning can improve no matter our age, with the adoption of appropriate lifestyle and tools, and that doing so can help build our cognitive reserves and protect our brains against decline and even Alzheimer´s symptoms. I recommend checking out sharpbrains.com for a lot of good stuff on lifelong cognitive health and brain fitness, including this nice checklist to evaluate "brain training" products and claims: http://www.sharpbrains.com/resources/10-question-evaluation-checklist/


    December 17, 2010 at 01:20 | Report abuse | Reply
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    December 31, 2010 at 09:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Lanell Elifritz

    Early on, there were only comic books and video tapes that people brooded over to have a good laugh, but today there are so many websites available for the same. These websites are filled with funny crazy pictures, funny video clips and allow the user to surf through and watch any video they wish to. They can either watch the top rated ones or specify a search keyword and look for that one particular video. However, building a funny video website is not as easy as it seems. If an individual wants to create a website, they need to go through a rigorous process. And so, you can imagine the amount of details involved for a company to launch a website. Their main content would be based on humor and interactive flash games only.;"

    Our favorite blog

    May 7, 2013 at 04:28 | Report abuse | Reply
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