Living Abroad Enhances Creativity

Could liv­ing abroad, (or more spe­cific­ally, adapt­ing to a for­eign cul­ture) enhance cre­ativ­ity? Research­ers con­duct­ing a series of nov­el and inter­est­ing tests (includ­ing the candle box func­tion­al fix­ed­ness test) are start­ing to sug­gest so.

Across these three stud­ies, the asso­ci­ation between for­eign liv­ing and cre­ativ­ity held even after con­trolling for per­son­al­ity vari­ables. In oth­er words it was­n’t just that time abroad was a mark­er for hav­ing a cre­at­ive per­son­al­ity. Anoth­er con­sist­ent find­ing was that trav­el­ling abroad had no asso­ci­ation with cre­ativ­ity – only liv­ing abroad did. […]

The research­ers cau­tioned that lon­git­ud­in­al research is needed to more fully test wheth­er and how liv­ing abroad is linked with enhanced cre­ativ­ity, but they said their find­ings made a good start. “It may be that those crit­ic­al months or years of turn­ing cul­tur­al bewil­der­ment into con­crete under­stand­ing may instill [creativity]”. 

Update: The Eco­nom­ist has their own take on the research.

3 thoughts on “Living Abroad Enhances Creativity

  1. Paul

    Sounds far more likely that there is a cor­rel­a­tion but no caus­a­tion.

    For example, there is a cor­rel­a­tion between going to uni­ver­sity and earn­ing more money than a non-gradu­ate, but only because smart people tend to do both.

    Could it there­fore be that cre­at­ive people have a high­er tend­ency to adapt to liv­ing abroad bet­ter?

  2. Steve

    I think this might be deeply flawed. I don’t know too much about the exper­i­ment but it seems the res­ults they got were, stu­dents who had lived abroad were more cre­at­ive at solv­ing prob­lems like affix­ing a candle to a wall without the wax spill­ing.

    Frankly, uncre­at­ive people are scared of the idea of mov­ing abroad. Too much change, risk and poten­tial dis­aster. Cre­at­ive people love that kind of thing. So what Paul said above, more cre­at­ive people do bet­ter abroad.

    Of course, if someone who is scared of mov­ing abroad was forced to, or forced them­selves to, they might well become more cre­at­ive after hope­fully real­ising that it’s not so bad after all!

  3. Lloyd Morgan Post author


    This is indeed the cent­ral prob­lem with the study; cre­ativ­ity and liv­ing abroad are cur­rently only ‘linked’. Wheth­er that turns our to be a cor­rel­at­ive or caus­at­ive link is still to be dis­covered.

    I’m more inter­ested in how the research­ers “[con­trolled] for per­son­al­ity vari­ables” as this could neg­ate a num­ber of argu­ments (if done cor­rectly).

    I def­in­itely look for­ward to hear­ing more about this top­ic!

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