How could I not pass this along? Last weekend’s New York Times published an op-ed piece by Suntae Kim, Evan Polman and Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks describing research in which they asked young adults to solve creative problems while sitting either inside or outside a box. Yes, an actual box. Titled When Truisms Are True, the article focuses on what psychologists call “embodied cognition,” the link between mind and body in constructing our experiences. That is, where we are, how we are moving, and what we are experiencing shape the way we think. For example, the article states:
Studies show, for example, that someone holding a warm cup of coffee tends to perceive a stranger as having a “warmer” personality. Likewise when holding something heavy, people see things as more serious and important — more “weighty.”
So what do you think happened in the box? By one measure (albeit one about which I have some concerns) students sitting outside the box scored significantly higher in creative thinking than those sitting in the box. Other kinds of movement seemed to affect creative thinking as well. Students who walked freely generated more creative ideas than those who walked a rectangular path. (Who knew there was a function to my husband’s random pacing?) If you’d like to read more, the research will soon be published in Psychological Science.
But for now, isn’t it interesting to think about what this might mean for schools? How might sitting at a desk for long stretches of time affect students’ ability to think flexibly? How might we vary our students’ experiences to get them out of their boxes–both literal and figurative? What do you think?