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 Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

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: Streamlining accelerated computing for industry

PyFR code combines high accuracy with flexibility to resolve unsteady turbulence problems

Scientists and engineers striving to create the next machine-age marvel--whether it be a more aerodynamic rocket, a faster race car, or a higher-efficiency jet...

Im Focus: X-ray optics on a chip

Waveguides are widely used for filtering, confining, guiding, coupling or splitting beams of visible light. However, creating waveguides that could do the same for X-rays has posed tremendous challenges in fabrication, so they are still only in an early stage of development.

In the latest issue of Acta Crystallographica Section A: Foundations and Advances , Sarah Hoffmann-Urlaub and Tim Salditt report the fabrication and testing of...

Im Focus: Piggyback battery for microchips: TU Graz researchers develop new battery concept

Electrochemists at TU Graz have managed to use monocrystalline semiconductor silicon as an active storage electrode in lithium batteries. This enables an integrated power supply to be made for microchips with a rechargeable battery.

Small electrical gadgets, such as mobile phones, tablets or notebooks, are indispensable accompaniments of everyday life. Integrated circuits in the interiors...

Im Focus: UCI physicists confirm possible discovery of fifth force of nature

Light particle could be key to understanding dark matter in universe

Recent findings indicating the possible discovery of a previously unknown subatomic particle may be evidence of a fifth fundamental force of nature, according...

Im Focus: Wi-fi from lasers

White light from lasers demonstrates data speeds of up to 2 GB/s

A nanocrystalline material that rapidly makes white light out of blue light has been developed by KAUST researchers.

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

The energy transition is not possible without Geotechnics

25.08.2016 | Event News

New Ideas for the Shipping Industry

24.08.2016 | Event News

A week of excellence: 22 of the world’s best computer scientists and mathematicians in Heidelberg

12.08.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Hans Clevers to receive the Körber Prize 2016

25.08.2016 | Awards Funding

An effective and low-cost solution for storing solar energy

25.08.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

PRB projects world population rising 33 percent by 2050 to nearly 10 billion

25.08.2016 | Social Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>