Category Archives: emotions

Different Cultures Enhances Creativity

Creativity can be enhanced by experiencing cultures different from one’s own, according to a study in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (published by SAGE).4_lies.jpg

Three studies looked at students who had lived abroad and those who hadn’t, testing them on different aspects of creativity. Relative to a control group, which hadn’t experienced a different culture, participants in the different culture group provided more evidence of creativity in various standard tests of the trait. Those results suggest that multicultural learning is a critical component of the adaptation process, acting as a creativity catalyst.
The researchers believe that the key to the enhanced creativity was related to the students’ open-minded approach in adapting to the new culture. In a global world, where more people are able to acquire multicultural experiences than ever before, this research indicates that living abroad can be even more beneficial than previously thought.
“Given the literature on structural changes in the brain that occur during intensive learning experiences, it would be worthwhile to explore whether neurological changes occur within the creative process during intensive foreign culture experiences,” write the authors, William W. Maddux, Hajo Adam, and Adam D. Galinsky. “That can help paint a more nuanced picture of how foreign culture experiences may not only enhance creativity but also, perhaps literally, as well as figuratively, broaden the mind.
The article “When in Rome… Learn Why the Romans Do What They Do: How Multicultural Learning Experiences Facilitate Creativity” in the June 2010 issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin is available free for a limited time here.
Source: SAGE Publications

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Self-Affirmation Improves Problem-Solving

It’s no secret that stress increases your susceptibility to health problems, and it also impacts your ability to solve problems and be creative. But methods to prevent associated risks and effects have been less clear – until now.
Published in PLOS ONE, new research from Carnegie Mellon University provides the first evidence that self-affirmation can protect against the damaging effects of stress on problem-solving performance. Understanding that self-affirmation – the process of identifying and focusing on one’s most important values – boosts stressed individuals’ problem-solving abilities will help guide future research and the development of educational interventions.

Man Laughing
Man Laughing — Image by ¬© Royalty-Free/Corbis

“An emerging set of published studies suggest that a brief self-affirmation activity at the beginning of a school term can boost academic grade-point averages in underperforming kids at the end of the semester. This new work suggests a mechanism for these studies, showing self-affirmation effects on actual problem-solving performance under pressure,” said J. David Creswell, assistant professor of psychology in CMU’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
Because previous research indicated that self-affirmation may be an effective stress management approach, Creswell and his research team had college students rank-order a set of values (e.g., art, business, family and friends) in terms of their personal importance, and indicate their levels of chronic stress. Participants randomly assigned to a self-affirmation condition were asked to write a couple of sentences about why their number one ranked value was important (a standard self-affirmation exercise). All participants then had to complete a challenging problem-solving task under time pressure, which required creativity in order to generate correct solutions.
The results showed that participants who were under high levels of chronic stress during the past month had impaired problem-solving performance. In fact, they solved about 50 percent fewer problems in the task. But notably, this effect was qualified by whether participants had an opportunity to first complete the self-affirmation activity. Specifically, a brief self-affirmation was effective in eliminating the deleterious effects of chronic stress on problem-solving performance, such that chronically stressed self-affirmed participants performed under pressure at the same level as participants with low chronic stress levels.
“People under high stress can foster better problem-solving simply by taking a moment beforehand to think about something that is important to them,” Creswell said. “It’s an easy-to-use and portable strategy you can roll out before you enter that high pressure performance situation.

Researchers pinpoint brain’s happiness region

creativity1.jpg¬†Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence,” the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle once said. But how does one reach this goal? According to a new study by researchers from Japan, a person’s happiness may depend on the size of a specific brain region.

Researchers found people who were happier had larger gray matter volume in the precuneus region of the brain.

Study leader Dr. Wataru Sato, of Kyoto University in Japan, and colleagues publish their findings in the journal Scientific Reports.

The definition of happiness has been debated for centuries. In recent years, psychologists have suggested that happiness is a combination of life satisfaction and the experience of more positive than negative emotions – collectively deemed “subjective well-being.”

But according to Dr. Sato and his colleagues, the neurological mechanisms behind a person’s happiness were unclear.

“To date, no structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) investigation of the construct has been conducted,” they note.

“Identification of the neural substrates underlying subjective happiness may provide a complementary objective measure for this subjective construct and insight into its information-processing mechanism.”

 

Meditation may boost happiness by targeting precuneus brain region

To address this research gap, the team used MRI to scan the brains of 51 study participants.

After the scans, subjects were asked to complete three short questionnaires that asked them how satisfied they are with their lives, how happy they are and how intensely they feel positive and negative emotions.

The researchers found that individuals who had higher happiness scores had larger gray matter volume in the precuneus of the brain – a region in the medial parietal lobe that plays a role in self-reflection and certain aspects of consciousness – than their unhappy counterparts.YMen.jpg

What is more, the researchers found that one’s happiness may be driven by a combination of greater life satisfaction and intensity of positive emotion – supporting the theory of subjective well-being.

“These results indicate that the widely accepted psychological model postulating emotional and cognitive components of subjective happiness may be applicable at the level of neural structure,” they add.

These findings, the researchers say, indicate that individuals may be able to boost their happiness through practices that target the precuneus, such as meditation:

“Previous structural neuroimaging studies have shown that training in psychological activities, such as meditation, changed the structure of the precuneus gray matter.

Together with these findings, our results suggest that psychological training that effectively increases gray matter volume in the precuneus may enhance subjective happiness.”

Dr. Sato adds that, while further research is required, these current findings may be useful for developing psychological programs that boost a person’s happiness.