Pack Your Bags: Traveling Enhances Creativity

A recent research study, published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, found that living and adapting to a foreign culture can enhance your creativity. If you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a far away country, start packing. Turns out listening to people around you talk in a language you’ve never heard of while you try a dessert with an exotic flavor you’ve never tasted before, is really great for your brain health.

The study ran three experiments. The first experiment on forty-three participants (18 male, 25 female) from a large university in Paris, France. The second experiment on one hundred fifty-two undergraduates (67 male, 85 female) at a large midwestern university in the United States participated.  The third experiment on one hundred thirty-five full-time M.B.A. students (80 male, 55 female) at a large Midwestern university in the United States.  The experiments focused on testing flexibility, association, and insight. For example, in one experiment, participants were asked to perform “creative” tasks, such as a word-completion creativity exercise, after being reminded of memories and experiences gathered from living abroad.

The study results indicated that those multicultural experiences are a core component of being able to adapt to new situations and increase creativity.  Learning about a foreign culture, specifically by immersing yourself within the culture, can help enhance your cognitive complexity, flexibility, and ability to creatively solve problems.

Research has shown that creativity reinforces essential connections between brain cell, relieves sleep and mood disorders, and generates a positive outlook and well-being.  Creativity can help develop self-confidence to overcome societal obstacles.  Studies have shown that there is a “natural high” or release of endorphins that results from “a joyous creative experience.”

There are many definitions of “culture.”  In 1952, a study compiled a list of 164 definitions of “culture” in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions.  In its broadest sense, culture is essentially a learned behavior consisting of routine responses and familiar societal patterns and structure.  These learned behaviors help in simplifying the world around you and coordinating your behavior with others that you are in contact with on a daily basis.  At the same time, the structure provided by culture could potentially stifle innovation, if you don’t sometimes learn to step out of your routine.

So on that next trip you take, you’re not only returning with the $10 souvenir t-shirt with a picture of a lemur, you’re also experiencing an inspirational adventure that could truly change how you think.

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