Can looking away from the problem, lead to more creative insights?
Look at the words below and think of a single words that can logically be paired with all of them.
Pine Crab Sauce
By using the remote-associates test, where a person is given a series of words, John Kounios and Mark Beeman, found when they followed people’s gaze that their direction of the eyes was linked to their thinking. If a person looked directly at a word and focused on it, the person was more likely to go through the options that made sense and discarding those that did not make sense. When a person looked away from the words, he or she was more likely to think of broader and abstract associations between the words.
Close attention was characterized by a person blinking less, while a more broad association were made when the person either moved their eyes or blinked.
A systematic approach to the problem means that you may look at the word pine and think of words like tree cone and needle and test and see if these words can be linked to the other two words.
Pine + Needle ->Pine Needle
Crab + Needle -> Crabneedle? Needlecab?
Sauce + Needle -> Sauceneedle? Needlesauce?
To explore more possibilities, “You need to learn not just to stare but to look outside your focus,” Beeman says.
Insight is the result of an analysis and it does not simply appear out of the blue. By focusing and analyzing a situation or problem and then using broader associations, you may get that eureka moment.
- When a problem is presented you need to focus.
- Consciously study the problem for a while.
- Look away and try to let your mind wander.
Thus, it may not to be a good strategy to go for a walk before you have focused on the problem for a while (but you may solve another problem. . .)
A word that links the three words “pine”, “crab” and sauce” is “apple”, (pineapple, crab apple and applesauce)
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See also Distancing – A Thinking Strategy