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Surprising Science

Walk Backwards to Boost Creativity

Changing up your routine by walking backwards may be enough to boost creativity, although it may also lead to a decrease in productivity.

There are a lot of methods out there to help boost creativity. For example, some studies have revealed being bored, fatigued, or even working in a dim and cluttered space can help ignite the creative spark. Here’s another tip, brought to you by science: Walk backwards.

BPS writes that our routines can stifle our creativity. A new study shows evidence that changing up a small part of our physical routines can help us break out of our conformity. The study, conducted by lead researcher Eve Errs and her team, was made up of 60 participants split into two groups of 30. One group’s members were told to spend their mornings walking backwards, while the other group’s members, acting as a control, were told to walk as they always do.

The participants were given two tests at lunchtime to assess creativity. In one, they were told to think of novel uses for a brick and draw pictures of aliens. However, it should be noted that five members of the backwards group could not make it due to injury or getting lost (a common theme in this study). Though, even without these individuals, the backwards group outperformed the control group in concocting more original uses for bricks and more outlandish depictions of aliens.

In a follow-up experiment, the researchers applied their idea to employees at a tech startup company. All staff on one floor were required to walk backwards for a week, but this time they were issued safety helmets complete with mirrors to help them see what lay behind/ahead of them. All other staff members on other floors were told to go about their day as usual.

Managers reported more creative work from the backwards-walking staff, however, it impacted productivity and workflow as a result of an increase in coffee spills and spontaneous laughter.

Errs explained to the BPS that people don’t necessarily need to walk backwards in order to boost their creativity:

“Take any mundane activity, do it in reverse, and you encourage your mind to think differently, to shake off the constraints of habit and conformity. Have dinner at breakfast, or have a shower before you exercise, the possibilities are endless.”

Update: While the study seemed quite silly, I presumed the research reported at BPS was factual. It seems I forgot to mind the date when I wrote this post. Happy April Fools.

As to how this state of creativity is achieved, Errs doesn’t provide any insight there. However, Steven Kotler, the author of The Rise of Superman, explains the neurochemical changes that allow us to achieve these “flow states” that strengthen our motivation, creativity, and learning:

Read more about the April Fool’s Day article at BPS.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock


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