If you want to think outside the box, live outside the country, at least for a while. Increasingly, that is the conclusion of psychological research on how living abroad affects a person’s ability to reach innovative solutions to vexing problems. “The link between studying abroad and enhanced creativity was first made in a 2009 paper by William Maddux and Adam Galinsky, who found students who spent time overseas were more likely to come up with innovative insights.” A limitation of the study, however, was that it failed to establish a causal relationship, leaving open the possibility that people inclined to live abroad were more creative in the first place.
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What’s the Big Idea?
To investigate a causal relationship between living abroad and being creative, researchers at the University of Florida, Gainesville, designed a new experiment. In it, they used two standard creativity tests and selected three test groups: people who had lived abroad, people currently planning to live abroad and people who had no inclination to leave the US. Those individuals who had lived overseas arrived at significantly more creative ideas, according to the tests, than the other two groups. One of the researchers behind the new test argues this demonstrates a causal connection, saying, “Our findings indicate that studying abroad supports cognitive processes involved in developing innovative solutions.”