A Simple Imagination Test That Reveals How Creative You Are

Can you stretch your imagination this far?

Can you stretch your imagination this far?

Being able to imagine situations that are far away in time and space is a sign that you are highly creative, research finds.

Creative people are better able to think 500 years into the future, transcending the here and now.

Surprisingly, creative experts use a totally different part of the brain to think beyond the present, in comparison to less creative people.

Dr Meghan L. Meyer, the study’s first author, said:

“For most people, it is difficult to transcend the here and now, but creative experts are able to imagine distal experiences much more vividly than others.

They draw on a neural mechanism, which other experts may not be able to engage as easily for this type of thinking.”

Imagine the future

The conclusions come from a series of three studies.

In one study, 300 people were asked to “imagine what the world will be like in 500 years”, along with other similar exercises.

The results showed that more creative people were better at this imaginative exercise.

A second study compared creative and non-creative professionals.

This found that creative professionals were better at imagining the future.

Dr Meyer explained:

“Creative experts and control participants showed the same level of career success.

Yet, the creative experts demonstrated greater distal imagination.

The results illustrate that it’s the creative pursuits and not just career success, which appears to enhance transcending the here and now.”

Distant thinking

A third study carried out scans to look at what happens in the brain when creative experts imagine a far-off future.

For distant events, experts used the dorsal medial default network, which non-experts did not use.

This area of the brain is important for empathy and thinking about other people.

Dr Meyer said:

“Many of the problems facing our society today, whether it be identifying solutions to address climate change or working with others who may have different political views, are essentially challenges that require distal thinking.

They demand that you get outside of your present point of view and try to think about how things could be different from your immediate experience.

Identifying the underlying neural mechanisms associated with this type of imagination will hopefully help us better understand the key ingredients that may be needed to solve these kinds of complex, societal problems.”

The study was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Meyer et al., 2019).

How Personality Traits Determine Your Artistic and Scientific Success

How does personality predict success in writing, the visual arts, invention, music, dance and science?

How does personality predict success in writing, the visual arts, invention, music, dance and science?

Being open to experience and intelligent are linked to greater creative achievement in life, research finds.

People high on these traits are more likely to have professional (paid) success in writing, the visual arts, invention, music, dance and science.

People who are open to experience are more likely to be imaginative, sensitive to their feelings, intellectually curious and seekers of variety.

Openness to experience also measures how much you like trying out new ideas or activities.

Intelligence and openness, though, bias people towards different domains:

  • For scientific creativity, intelligence is linked to greater achievement.
  • For artistic creativity, being open to experience is linked to greater achievement.

The link between intelligence and science, as well as openness and the arts, was also seen at the genetic level.

The study’s authors explain:

“While both openness and intelligence were correlated with creative achievement in both domains, the correlation between openness and artistic achievement was twice as strong as that between openness and scientific achievement.

At the same time, the correlation between intelligence and scientific achievement was more than twice that between intelligence and artistic achievement.”

The results come from a Swedish study of 9,537 twins.

All were given personality tests, along with being asked about their creative achievements in areas including writing, visual arts, invention, music, dance and science.

Twins were included in the study to test the influence of genetics and the environment on creativity.

The authors explain the genetic results:

“Genes associated with intelligence, however, played a significantly greater role in scientific achievement than in artistic achievement.

In fact, the majority of genetic influences on intelligence were also involved in scientific creative achievement.”

The varying importance of intelligence and openness across scientific and artistic domains probably comes down to the different demands, the authors write:

“…artistic and scientific domains will generally place different demands on […] creative problem solving.

For example […] scientific creativity, on average, operates under greater constraint and requires greater top-down cognitive control than does artistic creativity, while artistic creativity, in contrast to scientific creativity, depends more on spontaneous associations, emotional involvement and the expression of affect.”

The study was published in the journal Intelligence (Manzano & Ullén, 2018).

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This Personality Trait Makes Some People Look More Attractive

How less attractive men can make themselves stand out from the crowd.

How less attractive men can make themselves stand out from the crowd.

Plain-looking men can boost their attractiveness to women by being creative, research finds.

The same boost in attractiveness, strangely, does not apply to plain-looking women.

In fact, for less attractive women, creativity could actually be a dating handicap.

Dr Christopher Watkins, the study’s author, said:

“Creative women with less attractive faces seem to be perhaps penalised in some way.”

The boost for average-looking men, though, was substantial, said Dr Watkins:

“Creative guys with less attractive faces were almost identical in attractiveness to really good looking guys who were not as creative.”

Top of the pile, naturally, were men who were both good-looking and creative.

The importance of displaying creativity may be partly that imagination suggests intelligence.

Dr Watkins said:

“Women on average are a more selective sex when it comes to choosing romantic partners.

Creativity is thought to be a signal that an individual can invest time and effort into a particular task or can see things in novel ways that may be useful for survival.”

Unfortunately, those who are creative may not have a chance to show it in the modern, superficial world of online dating.

Dr Watkins said:

“Certain platforms that we have now for dating might not be favourable for assessing people on more complex attributes.”

Creativity is not just attractive in a dating context, but also in friendships, the study found.

Creativity looks good

Compare this study with another piece of attraction research testing whether personality can beat looks:

“Women say they prefer the personality traits of friendliness and respectfulness, but new research reveals it’s really all about looks.

When tested, women pick men who are physically attractive over those with better personality traits.

Younger women, in particular, pay little attention to whether men are trustworthy, respectful and honest — just whether they are fit.

[…]

The results revealed that personality made little difference when men were unattractive.

Perhaps, though, creativity can do the trick in place of being friendly and respectful.

The study was published in the journal Royal Society Open Science (Watkins, 2017).

The Frightening Effect Of Screen Time On The Human Imagination

Both reading and watching video change people’s imaginative powers.

Both reading and watching video change people’s imaginative powers.

Reading books stimulates the imagination better than watching videos, a study finds.

Indeed, watching stories and images on screen may serve to dull the imagination.

Like most other cognitive or physical functions, the imagination needs to be used to keep it working.

Although many have speculated that reading stimulates the imagination, while video dulls it, this is one of the first studies to find empirical evidence.

Reading vs screens

The study included over 200 people who were first presented with either film clips to watch or text to read.

Then they were asked to use their imagination to compare objects not related to the video or text.

The results showed that people’s ability to visualise was slower after they had watched a video than if they had been reading a text.

Dr Sebastian Suggate, the study’s first author, explained:

“We found that those who had been watching film clips had slightly impaired imagery for 25 seconds compared to those who had just been reading and that this did not change depending on whether they had seen fast-moving or slow-moving images on screen.

In reality, this is a very small time delay, but if you look at what this means over a longer period of time—days or years of consistently consuming images on screen—then we can see that this is actually a significant impact on the brain’s ability to mentally visualize and feel.”

TV kills the imagination

In a previous study, researchers had found much the same effect in children aged 3-9 years, but over the longer term.

Over 10 months of watching TV for between 1 and 4 hours per day, the children’s ability to visualise was reduced, suggesting it was negatively affecting their imagination.

Dr Suggate said:

“In order to produce images in the brain or mind, we rely on a number of sensory systems, and not just our ability to see.

It takes the experiences of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch to produce a response to the world around us, and our study in children suggests that passively consuming images for hours and over a long period of time without routinely stopping to do something else that tests our other sensory functions, or to simply pause their viewing to discuss what they had just seen on the television, dulls the imaginative capabilities.

In our study with adults, we see a similar effect in a short period of time, and by comparing it to reading, we can see that the brain needs to actively create mental imagery, and we appear to be able to do this better when the images have not already been given to us via film clips.”

A strong imagination is not just important for creativity, but for more mundane pursuits like planning everyday activities, relating to other people and the world around us.

Dr Suggate said:

“Some screen time is fine, but balancing this out with things like reading, interacting with other people, and exercising outdoors seems to be the best way to protect our imaginative capabilities.

It is important that we do protect it because it has a big impact, particularly on young children as their brains develop, and the concern is that we want to avoid having generations of people who struggle to see themselves in other people’s shoes and imagine alternative ways of addressing both big and small challenges.

Many social and environmental problems provide good examples of this; in many ways, we need to be able to imagine what our world was and what it will be like if we don’t do things differently.”

Related

The study was published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts (Suggate et al., 2023).

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