Moving abroad increases creativity


It has long been suggested that leaving your country and experiencing new cultures can be a mentally enriching endeavour, but a new study has reinforced this thought by claiming people who spend time abroad benefit from increased creativity.

The American Psychological Association conducted a study amongst a group of students, and those that had lived abroad displayed greater creativity. The creativity levels of the students were measured by way of a number of psychological tests, including the Duncker candle test.

The Duncker candle test asks people to find a way of affixing a candle to a wall, and have it not drip wax onto the floor, using just a candle, a book of matches and a small box of pins. The problem is solved by pinning the pin box to the wall and then placing the candle inside the box.

The Duncker Candle Test is said to measure creativity as it challenges its subjects to think outside the box and use an object in an unconventional manner, in this instance by using a box of pins as a wall mounted candle holder.

Out of the people who participated in test, 60 percent of people who moved abroad successfully completed the task, whilst only 42 percent of people who hadn’t moved abroad were successful.

The study found that people who immersed themselves in their new cultures were the ones who would benefit the most, and the effects were seen more in people who had spent a long time abroad, as opposed to those that made brief trips.

The study was conducted by Professor William Maddux, himself a travelled expat. He said: “The theory that living abroad somehow opens your mind is an old one, which we know through stories of artists like Hemingway who lived in France. Running tests like this however gives us actual empirical evidence for the first time. In order to widen their creative abilities, it seems that people have to really try and fit into a different environment, and learn how to do things in a totally different way”.

Proffessor Maddux also commented on the worth moving abroad gives to those working in business: “Whether it’s in solving a corporate dispute, or coming up with a new project, living abroad seems to be able to help people approach ideas from different and innovative ways. Knowing that experiences abroad are critical for creative output makes study abroad programs and job assignments in other countries that much more important, especially for people and companies that put a premium on creativity and innovation to stay competitive.”