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Opening up to new experience can lead to light bulb moments – study

Psychologists say being open to new experiences and people can spark creativity and original ideas.

Being open to new experiences, people and places leads to greater creativity and can spark original ideas, experts say.

The research, by an international team of psychologists, suggests the most creative people are those who are open to change and challenging themselves.

It also found such openness to new experiences can be fostered in everyone, helping to generate greater creative thinking across societies.

In the work, published in the Journal of Personality, researchers tested people’s predisposition for divergent thinking – the ability to generate new ideas that go beyond current thinking.

Across three studies, 798 participants completed a divergent thinking test where they were asked to generate as many different uses for a brick as possible in three minutes.

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A brick challenge was put to volunteers (PA)

These answers were then scored according to their fluency, flexibility and originality.

In the first two studies, the most creative participants were also open to new experiences and had high scores on a personality trait called “novelty seeking”.

The researchers asked whether novelty seeking, and therefore creativity, could be increased in everyone regardless of personality in the third study.

Participants were asked to consider how new experiences could benefit them, others were asked to perform a gap-filling exercise or do nothing at all.

Results showed divergent thinking increased in the participants who considered the benefits of new experiences, meaning that novelty seeking can be temporarily increased.

Dr Gosia Goclowska, from the University of Bath’s Department of Psychology, said: “Our study suggests that using the right set of instructions, one that encourages people to embrace novelty and challenge, can lead to increased creativity in nearly everyone.

“Creativity is not limited to geniuses or prodigies. In the right circumstances and with the right mindset most people can be very creative regardless of what personality they have.

If we succeed at being open and positive about new experiences, they are likely to be a win-win when it comes to creativity Dr Gosia Goclowska

“One way to do this is to cultivate a greater openness towards novelty – for instance by thinking of the benefits that novelty can bring to our life.”

However, Dr Goclowska said the application of the research depends for individuals, and what they might need in certain situations.

Opening up to new experiences can be useful for people who want to generate new ideas but others may already have lots of ideas and need to focus on implementing them.

People could also find opening up to novelty makes their lives more stressful and undermines performance, if they already have too much going on.

Dr Goclowska said some circumstances, such as having to move to a different city or country or learn a new skill, could not be avoided.

“In those circumstances seeking support from others and taking care of our psychological health can increase our ability to cope with change, and can help cultivate a greater openness,” she said.

“In those instances, if we succeed at being open and positive about new experiences, they are likely to be a win-win when it comes to creativity.”

The study, “Novelty seeking is linked to openness and extraversion, and can lead to greater creative performance”, is published in the Journal of Personality.

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