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Do Status Symbols Help You Make New Friends? Enter the terms you wish to search for. Thinking Outside the Box: A Misguided Idea The truth behind the universal, but flawed, catchphrase for creativity. Although studying creativity is considered a legitimate scientific discipline nowadays, it is still a very young one.
In the early 1970s, a psychologist named J. Guilford was one of the first academic researchers who dared to conduct a study of creativity. 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. The symmetry, the beautiful simplicity of the solution, and the fact that 80 percent of the participants were effectively blinded by the boundaries of the square led Guilford and the readers of his books to leap to the sweeping conclusion that creativity requires you to go outside the box. Management consultants in the 1970s and 1980s even used this puzzle when making sales pitches to prospective clients. Because the solution is, in hindsight, deceptively simple, clients tended to admit they should have thought of it themselves.
There seemed to be no end to the insights that could be offered under the banner of thinking outside the box. Indeed, the concept enjoyed such strong popularity and intuitive appeal that no one bothered to check the facts. No one, that is, before two different research teams—Clarke Burnham with Kenneth Davis, and Joseph Alba with Robert Weisberg—ran another experiment using the same puzzle but a different research procedure. Both teams followed the same protocol of dividing participants into two groups.