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In other words, the difference could easily be due to what statisticians call sampling error.
Let’s look a little more closely at these surprising results.
Because they hadn’t, they were obviously not as creative or smart as they had previously thought, and needed to call in creative experts. The nine-dot puzzle and the phrase “thinking outside the box” became metaphors for creativity and spread like wildfire in marketing, management, psychology, the creative arts, engineering, and personal improvement circles.
There seemed to be no end to the insights that could be offered under the banner of thinking outside the box.
So, take a stroll down memory lane to remember all of our past Word of the Year selections.
Although studying creativity is considered a legitimate scientific discipline nowadays, it is still a very young one. One of Guilford’s most famous studies was the nine-dot puzzle.
Both teams followed the same protocol of dividing participants into two groups.
The first group was given the same instructions as the participants in Guilford’s experiment.
In the 1970s, however, very few were even aware of its existence, even though it had been around for almost a century.
The idea went viral (via 1970s-era media and word of mouth, of course).
Overnight, it seemed that creativity gurus everywhere were teaching managers how to think outside the box.
If you have tried solving this puzzle, you can confirm that your first attempts usually involve sketching lines inside the imaginary square.
The correct solution, however, requires you to draw lines that extend beyond the area defined by the dots.
What the latest experiment proves is not that creativity lacks any association to thinking outside-the-box, but that such is not conditioned by acquired knowledge, i.e., environmental concerns.