Want to be more creative? Here, sniff this
The placebo effect is stronger than you thought, a new study reveals.
A team of researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel just conducted an intriguing experiment. They gathered a bunch of people, asked them to sniff a cinnamon-scented object, and told half of them that the object would improve their creativity.
It's another in a long line of placebo studies, which are traditionally defined as giving people a pill with nothing and telling them it's something, and measuring the results. It's a very common component in many clinical studies, and for good reason – a lot of placebos actually work, meaning they achieve the desired effect (making you feel better) even though the pill is misidentified. Mind over matter, as the overused saying goes.
Which is where Weizmann's team, led by professors Lior Noy and Liron Rozenkrantz, came in. They knew all about the placebo effect from a medicinal standpoint, but they also wondered: can it improve things like creativity and athletic performance, too? Can simply telling someone that a smell will spark their creativity actually make them more creative?
All told, placebo won again. After 90 students smelled the scented object, the researchers asked them to complete tasks like rearranging squares on a computer screen into different shapes, and thinking up new uses for everyday items like shoes, pins and buttons.
Those who were told the scent would enhance their creativity scored higher on originality. Their tasks proved it: the "scented" group came up with more unusual shape designs and outside-the-box uses for the items.
"The findings indicate that placebo can enhance the originality aspect of creativity. This strengthens the view that placebo can be used not only to reduce negative clinical symptoms, but also to enhance positive aspects of cognition," the Israeli researchers concluded.
So this age-old form of research is worth the effort of taking a placebo. Think of all the tasks you can conquer when you have permission to be creative!
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Related Topics: Science