Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Taking a walk may lead to more creativity than sitting, study finds

24.04.2014

Free-flowing thought more likely while walking indoors or outdoors, research reveals

When the task at hand requires some imagination, taking a walk may lead to more creative thinking than sitting, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

"Many people anecdotally claim they do their best thinking when walking," said Marily Oppezzo, PhD, of Santa Clara University. "With this study, we finally may be taking a step or two toward discovering why."

While at Stanford University's Graduate School of Education, Oppezzo and colleague Daniel L. Schwartz, PhD, conducted studies involving 176 people, mostly college students. They found that those who walked instead of sitting or being pushed in a wheelchair consistently gave more creative responses on tests commonly used to measure creative thinking, such as thinking of alternate uses for common objects and coming up with original analogies to capture complex ideas. When asked to solve problems with a single answer, however, the walkers fell slightly behind those who responded while sitting, according to the study published in APA's Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition.

While previous research has shown that regular aerobic exercise may protect cognitive abilities, these researchers examined whether simply walking could temporarily improve some types of thinking, such as free-flowing thought compared to focused concentration. "Asking someone to take a 30-minute run to improve creativity at work would be an unpopular prescription for many people," Schwartz said. "We wanted to see if a simple walk might lead to more free-flowing thoughts and more creativity."

Of the students tested for creativity while walking, 100 percent came up with more creative ideas in one experiment, while 95 percent, 88 percent and 81 percent of the walker groups in the other experiments had more creative responses compared with when they were sitting. If a response was unique among all responses from the group, it was considered novel. Researchers also gauged a participant's total number of responses and whether a response was feasible and appropriate to the constraints of the task. For example, "Putting lighter fluid in soup is novel, but it is not very appropriate," Oppezzo said.

In one experiment with 48 participants, each student sat alone in a small room at a desk facing a blank wall. When a researcher named an object, the student came up with alternative ways to use the object. For example, for the word "button," a person might say "as a doorknob on a dollhouse." The students heard two sets of three words and had four minutes per set to come up with as many responses as possible. To see how walking might affect more restricted thinking, the researchers also had the students complete a word association task with 15 three-word groups, such as "cottage-Swiss-cake," for which the correct answer is "cheese." Participants repeated both tasks with different sets of words first while sitting and then while walking at a comfortable pace on a treadmill facing a blank wall in the same room.

With a different group of 48 students, some sat for two different sets of the tests, some walked during two sets of the test and some walked and then sat for the tests. "This confirmed that the effect of walking during the second test set was not due to practice," Oppezzo said. "Participants came up with fewer novel ideas when they sat for the second test set after walking during the first. However, they did perform better than the participants who sat for both sets of tests, so there was a residual effect of walking on creativity when people sat down afterward. Walking before a meeting that requires innovation may still be nearly as useful as walking during the meeting."

Students who walked in another experiment doubled their number of novel responses compared with when they were sitting. The 40 students in this experiment were divided into three groups: One sat for two sets of tests but moved to separate rooms for each set; another sat and then walked on a treadmill; and one group walked outdoors along a predetermined path.

To see if walking was the source of creative inspiration rather than being outdoors, another experiment with 40 participants compared responses of students walking outside or inside on a treadmill with the responses of students being pushed in a wheelchair outside and sitting inside. Again, the students who walked, whether indoors or outside, came up with more creative responses than those either sitting inside or being pushed in a wheelchair outdoors. "While being outdoors has many cognitive benefits, walking appears to have a very specific benefit of improving creativity," said Oppezzo.

More research will be necessary to explain how walking improves creativity, the authors said. They speculated that future studies would likely determine a complex pathway that extends from the physical act of walking to physiological changes to the cognitive control of imagination.

"Incorporating physical activity into our lives is not only beneficial for our hearts but our brains as well. This research suggests an easy and productive way to weave it into certain work activities," Oppezzo said.

###

Funding for the study was provided by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and a Stanford Graduate School of Education Dissertation Support Grant.

Article: "Give Your Ideas Some Legs: The Positive Effect of Walking on Creative Thinking," Marily Oppezzo, PhD, Santa Clara University, and Daniel L. Schwartz, PhD, Stanford University, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, published online April 2014.

Full text of the article is available from the APA Public Affairs Office and at http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/xlm-a0036577.pdf.

Contact: Marily Oppezzo at moppezzo@gmail.com or (408) 314-2629.

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA's membership includes nearly 130,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people's lives.

http://www.apa.org

If you do not want to receive APA news releases, please let us know at public.affairs@apa.org or 202-336-5700.

Lisa Bowen | Eurek Alert!

Further reports about: APA Cognition Education Learning cognitive creativity responses treadmill walk

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Research investigates whether solar events could trigger birth defects on Earth
21.07.2015 | University of Kansas

nachricht Accounting for short-lived forcers in carbon budgets
15.07.2015 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Superfast fluorescence sets new speed record

Plasmonic device has speed and efficiency to serve optical computers

Researchers have developed an ultrafast light-emitting device that can flip on and off 90 billion times a second and could form the basis of optical computing.

Im Focus: Unlocking the rice immune system

Joint BioEnergy Institute study identifies bacterial protein that is key to protecting rice against bacterial blight

A bacterial signal that when recognized by rice plants enables the plants to resist a devastating blight disease has been identified by a multi-national team...

Im Focus: Smarter window materials can control light and energy

Researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin are one step closer to delivering smart windows with a new level of energy efficiency, engineering materials that allow windows to reveal light without transferring heat and, conversely, to block light while allowing heat transmission, as described in two new research papers.

By allowing indoor occupants to more precisely control the energy and sunlight passing through a window, the new materials could significantly reduce costs for...

Im Focus: Simulations lead to design of near-frictionless material

Argonne scientists used Mira to identify and improve a new mechanism for eliminating friction, which fed into the development of a hybrid material that exhibited superlubricity at the macroscale for the first time. Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF) researchers helped enable the groundbreaking simulations by overcoming a performance bottleneck that doubled the speed of the team's code.

While reviewing the simulation results of a promising new lubricant material, Argonne researcher Sanket Deshmukh stumbled upon a phenomenon that had never been...

Im Focus: NASA satellite camera provides 'EPIC' view of Earth

A NASA camera on the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite has returned its first view of the entire sunlit side of Earth from one million miles away.

The color images of Earth from NASA's Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) are generated by combining three separate images to create a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

3rd Euro Bio-inspired - International Conference and Exhibition on Bio-inspired Materials

23.07.2015 | Event News

Clash of Realities – International Conference on the Art, Technology and Theory of Digital Games

10.07.2015 | Event News

World Conference on Regenerative Medicine in Leipzig: Last chance to submit abstracts until 2 July

25.06.2015 | Event News

 
Latest News

Neural efficiency hypothesis confirmed

28.07.2015 | Life Sciences

Scientists study predator-prey behavior between sharks and turtles

28.07.2015 | Life Sciences

Tropical deforestation releases large amounts of soil carbon

28.07.2015 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>