People with creative personalities really do see the world differently

Image result for People with creative personalities really do see the world differentlyWhat is it about a creative work such as a painting or piece of music that elicits our awe and admiration? Is it the thrill of being shown something new, something different, something the artist saw that we did not?

As Pablo Picasso put it:

Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not.

The idea that some people see more possibilities than others is central to the concept of creativity.

Psychologists often measure creativity using divergent thinking tasks. These require you to generate as many uses as possible for mundane objects, such as a brick. People who can see numerous and diverse uses for a brick (say, a coffin for a Barbie doll funeral diorama) are rated as more creative than people who can only think of a few common uses (say, for building a wall).

The aspect of our personality that appears to drive our creativity is called openness to experience, or openness. Among the five major personality traits, it is openness that best predicts performance on divergent thinking tasks. Openness also predicts real-world creative achievements, as well as engagement in everyday creative pursuits.

As Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire explain in their book Wired to Create, the creativity of open people stems from a “drive for cognitive exploration of one’s inner and outer worlds”.

This curiosity to examine things from all angles may lead people high in openness to see more than the average person, or as another research team put it, to discover “complex possibilities laying dormant in so-called ‘familiar’ environments”.

Creative vision

In our research, published in the Journal of Research in Personality, we found that open people don’t just bring a different perspective to things, they genuinely see things differently to the average individual.

We wanted to test whether openness is linked to a phenomenon in visual perception called binocular rivalry. This occurs when two different images are presented to each eye simultaneously, such as a red patch to the right eye and a green patch to the left eye.

For the observer, the images seem to flip intermittently from one to the other. At one moment only the green patch is perceived, and at the next moment only the red patch – each stimulus appearing to rival the other (see illustration below).

Binocular rivalry task. Author provided

Intriguingly, participants in binocular rivalry studies occasionally see a fused or scrambled combination of both images (see middle frame, above). These moments of “rivalry suppression”, when both images become consciously accessible at once, seem almost like a “creative” solution to the problem presented by the two incompatible stimuli.

Across three experiments, we found that open people saw the fused or scrambled images for longer periods than the average person. Furthermore, they reported seeing this for even longer when experiencing a positive mood state similar to those that are known to boost creativity.

Our findings suggest that the creative tendencies of open people extend all the way down to basic visual perception. Open people may have fundamentally different visual experiences to the average person.

Seeing things that others miss

Another well-known perceptual phenomenon is called inattentional blindness. People experience this when they are so focused on one thing that they completely fail to see something else right before their eyes.

In a famous illustration of this perceptual glitch, participants were asked to watch a short video of people tossing a basketball to one another, and to track the total number of passes between the players wearing white.

Try this out yourself, before reading further!

Count the basketball passes between players in white.

During the video, a person in a gorilla costume wanders into centre stage, indulges in a little chest-beating, and then schleps off again. Did you see it? If not, you are not alone. Roughly half of the 192 participants in the original study completely failed to see the costumed figure.

But why did some people experience inattentional blindness in this study when others didn’t? The answer to this question came in a recent follow-up study showing that your susceptibility to inattentional blindness depends on your personality: open people are more likely to see the gorilla in the video clip.

Once again, it seems that more visual information breaks through into conscious perception for people high in openness — they see the things that others screen out.

Opening our minds: is more better?

It might seem as if open people have been dealt a better hand than the rest of us. But can people with uncreative personalities broaden their limited vistas, and would this be a good thing?

There is mounting evidence that personality is malleable, and increases in openness have been observed in cognitive training interventions and studies of the effects of psilocybin (the psychedelic compound in magic mushrooms).

Openness also increases for students who choose to study overseas, confirming the idea that travel broadens the mind.

But there is also a dark side to the “permeability of consciousness” that characterises open people. Openness has been linked to aspects of mental illness, such as proneness to hallucination.

So despite its appeal, there may be a slippery slope between seeing more and seeing things that are not there.

So, from different personalities emerge different experiences, but we should always remember that one person’s view is not necessarily better than another’s.


Want to Be More Creative? Do Something Mindless

CREDIT: Getty Images

It’s an obvious truism that creativity is the source of innovation which is in turn the source of business success.

Not surprisingly, most companies try to make their employees more creative, usually through brainstorming, collaboration and open plan offices that encourage social interaction. Unfortunately, these make people less creative.

Take brainstorming, for instance. According to research published recently in Applied Cognitive Psychology, individuals working alone are more likely to come up with creative ideas than groups working together.

Collaboration, same thing. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review cited a study of 300 organizations revealed that in most cases, as much as a third of the value-added collaborations come from only 3% to 5% of the employees. Similarly, a study at the University of Iowa showed that the most effective teams have an “extra-miler” who ends up doing most of the work.

As for open plan offices, they are so full of noise pollution and visual pollution, and create so many interruptions that creative thinking becomes almost impossible. This is because social interaction is the opposite of creativity.

Turns out that people are most likely to think of new ideas when their minds are wandering, according to research conducted at The University of York and the University of California Santa Barbara, (Classic example: having a great idea whilst in the shower.)

To be consistently creative, you need cognitive variety, says Emma Seppälä, Science Director at Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, writing in Quartz:

“The idea is to balance linear thinking–which requires intense focus–with creative thinking, which is borne out of idleness. Switching between the two modes seems to be the optimal way to do good, inventive work.”

In her book The Happiness Track, Seppälä cites Nikola Tesla (who invented the key technology behind alternating current while taking a nature walk), Friedrich Augst Kukule (who figured out the structure of benzene while daydreaming) and Albert Einstein (who wrestled with complex mathematical problems by listening to Mozart.)

Unfortunately, today’s busy workplace doesn’t leave much time for letting your mind wander. However, you can put your mind into a more creative space simply by doing something mindless, like playing a computer game or even aimlessly walking around.

Thus, if managers and executives truly want employees to be more creative, they should stop trying to force the issue and instead learn to tolerate, and even encourage, employees to spend more of their workday simply goofing off.

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Do You Know How to Prepare for a Computer Crash?

The computer has changed the way we do business and work. So when a computer crashes, it becomes nearly impossible to work.

This is what happened when I woke up last Friday morning and my computer wouldn’t boot. After a couple of blue screens, I determined I’d need to take it in for repair. The problem for me is that as a freelance writer, blogger and online entrepreneur, nearly all my work is done online. Without a computer, I wouldn’t be able to work and make a living.

Even if your business or job isn’t 100% virtual, a crashed computer can severely impact your ability to work. Here are some tips to preparing for and surviving a computer crash.

Preparing for Computer Doom

The best way to survive a disaster is by being prepared. Here’s how to be prepared for when your computer crashes:

1) Back-up your computer on a regular basis. Backing up your computer means you have all your documents safely stored in case they can’t be retrieved off the crashed computer. Ideally, back-up to an external drive or online storage service, which makes your information easier to retrieve and restore to your computer (as opposed to backing up on your computer).

2) Have a back-up computer ready to use. A week ago I went out of town, so I pulled out my laptop, updated everything and added resources I’d need to work while I was away from my desktop. Thank goodness I did because now I have a slow, but useable computer to work with while my PC is being repaired. From now own, I’ll be sure to keep everything up-to-date on the laptop so I can easily resume working, if necessary, in the future.

3) Keep your serial numbers with your software in case you need to install programs on a back-up computer. The audio editing software I use for my podcast isn’t on my laptop, but I have the software disk and the all serial numbers filed together. If you download software, make a backup copy of the install file and the email with any passwords or serial numbers needed to install and activate the software. If your computer can’t be restored and instead is reset, you’ll need these to re-install all your software.

4) Use Web-based services that aren’t dependent on a specific computer. I’m working on a book. For the most part, I write on my desktop (the one that crashed). But on occasion, I like to work at the local java joint, so instead of saving the document on my PC, I save it to Drop Box. Now I can easily access the document on my other computer. My blogs and websites are built on WordPress. I use Gmail and Google Calendar. All of these resources are Web-based, allowing me to work anywhere I can get online.

Surviving a Computer Crash

A computer crash can seem like the end of the world, especially if much of your income is dependent on your ability to get online. Here are tips to making the best of a bad situation:

1) Don’t panic (unless you’re not prepared). If you’ve done the steps above, a computer crash is just a hassle, not a disaster. As annoying as it is, you don’t need to waste time freaking out. If you’re not prepared, it will be difficult not to panic, but you still want to stay calm. It’s difficult to problem solve if you’re thinking doom and gloom. Staying calm will help you think clearly on the next step.

2) Try to undo the last thing you did. Depending on what you’re computer is doing, sometimes undoing the last thing you did will get the computer running again. Or, use your PC’s restore feature to reset the computer back to a time before the problem occurred. If you have a blue screen or can’t get to any programs that would let you make changes, don’t try anything unless you’re a tech expert.

3) Get help. Most people I know who have had to take their computers in for repair were without their computers for at least a week. My estimated repair time is two weeks. If I didn’t have a back-up laptop, I’d be scrambling right now (see above on being prepared). The point is, the sooner you get help, the sooner you’ll be back up and running. Before your computer goes bad is the best time to research computer tech companies. Once something goes wrong, get in touch with your expert right away to get the computer running again.

4) Make a plan to get your work done. Your boss or clients will sympathize with your problem, but they also expect you to get your work done. A computer crash isn’t an acceptable excuse for a professional. For example, I do a podcast interview each week. Fortunately, the names, dates and times, and email of each week’s guest are on my Web-based calendar. Unfortunately, their bio and other items I need to do the interview were downloaded to my crashed PC-based email. The answer is that I’ll ask for the bio and material again when I email to confirm the interview. Find a way to get the materials and resources you need to get your work done. If you don’t have a back-up computer, go to the library or see if a friend has a spare one (you’d be surprised how many people have old computers sitting around).

Like death and taxes, a crashed computer is inevitable at some point. But you can minimize the impact by being prepared and taking action when your computer goes on the fritz.

Computer Photo via Shutterstock

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Here’s What Customers Want Your Mobile App to Do (Infographic)

This Infographic Shows You How to Make Apps Your Small Business Customers Will Love

Dear Small Business Trends,

All right already, I get it. 2016 is the year that small businesses must develop mobile apps and going mobile is more important and affordable than ever.

So, I’m gonna build a mobile app for my small business because I want to reap the benefits and keep up with my competitors, but before I start, I have just one question: what should it do?

Thanks in advance for your reply, 

Small Business Owner

Great question Small Business Owner! The pressure to build an app for your small business is as great today as the pressure to build a website was back in 2005.

While you can find a lot of information about the ‘Why’ and the ‘How’ of mobile business apps online, it’s harder to find information on the ‘What’. In other words, what should your small business app do?

How to Make Apps That Your Customers Will Love

We took to the web to dig up the information you need to figure that out and put our findings into the infographic below. Also, make sure to look underneath the infographic for more details.

Click here to download a larger version of the infographic…

Feel free to share this infographic (attribution required) on
your own site by copying and pasting the code below:

<p style="text-align:center;"><a href=""><img style="border:none;width:100%;" src="" alt="Here’s What Customers Want Your Mobile App to Do" /></a></p><p style="font-weight:bold; font-style: italic; text-align:center;">This infographic first appeared in <a href="" target="_blank">Small Business Trends</a>.</p>

Here’s What Customers Want Your Mobile App to Do

How do Business Needs Align with Customer Desire?

One interesting detail we uncovered while researching the infographic was this chart from Clutch:

Reasons Small Businesses Make Apps

So, how closely did the top three reasons in the chart above align with what small business customers want your app to do? Are there ways to make both sides happy?

As the statistics in both the infographic above and the table below demonstrate, there sure are!

Reason Businesses Created a Mobile App What Your Customers Want Your Mobile App to Do
Increase Sales
  • 40.4% of branded retail app users bought more of the store’s products and services (source)
  • One loyalty program member spends up to 13% more than two non-members (source)
  • 51% are more likely to buy something in-store if they receive a coupon on their mobile device while near a store (including 63% of 18-34 year-olds, 43% of 35+) (source)
Improve Customer Experience
  • Two of the top reasons customers use restaurant apps are: order food online (30%) and make a reservation (23.8%) (source)
  • Clients book appointments when it’s convenient for them, 35% scheduled when the business was closed (source)
Become Competitive in the Market
  • 64% of affluent app users say they view brands with mobile apps more favorably (source)
  • 60% of mobile coupon users say they will “gladly switch brands to use a coupon” (source)
  • Out of branded retail app users: 45.8% visited the store more often, 35.8% told a friend about their shopping experience, and 30.8% encouraged friends to visit the store (source)


Dear Small Business Owner,

Thank you for writing! We’re glad you’ve decided to move forward and we were thrilled to help you figure out what your mobile app should do.

Best of luck!

Small Business Trends