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The Link Between Creativity and Movement

Creativity block? A new study suggests that simply making circular movements improves your creativity.

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Lack of creativity is synonymous with rigidity and tightness, squares and boxes, and a closed nature (both in posture and expression). But what if moving freely and fluidly could alter your level of creativity? That actually might be the case.

A study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, showed how through gestures and embodied cognition, we could conjure up a more fluid, creative thought.

In the three experiments, fluid arm movement led to enhanced creativity in 3 domains:

  • creative generation
  • cognitive flexibility
  • remote associations

Other mechanisms were also examined, such as enhanced mood and motivation. These results suggest that creativity can be influenced by certain types of physical movement.

“If we think of creativity as fluid and flowing," asks Michael Slepian (leader of the study), "can moving in a fluid manner help us be more imaginative?"

“Previous work has shown that the body influences what we’re thinking about,” Slepian says. In his latest study, Slepian wondered whether the notion of fluidity and ease could promote a more expansive thought process and facilitate creativity. Participants were asked to trace curved images with their fingers on a computer screen (fluid circular movements). The control group, on the other hand, was asked to trace straight, rigid lines (resulting in rigid movement).

After drawing the lines, subjects were given three tests. The first was to come up with creative uses for a newspaper. The participants that used the fluid movements not only had more ideas, but their ideas were also were deemed more creative (by the judges) with the uses for old newspapers. For example, one of the “fluid movement” participants suggested blacking out words with a pen to create a poem. Another suggested that letters could be transferred onto a fingernail by wetting it. The people who drew rigid movements, on the other hand, merely suggested using the newspaper for scrap paper.

In a second test, cognitive flexibility was looked at. They found that the ones who drew wavy lines were less rigid thinkers. “If people are thinking creatively, they are more willing to believe a camel is an appropriate example of a vehicle,” he says, “or a stove is an example of furniture.”

In the third example, Slepian looked at people’s ability to make a connection between three seemingly unrelated words. For example, a subject was given the words “pine,” “crab” and “sauce” and asked for a fourth word related to those three examples (“apple” being the answer). The fluid movement group was more likely to come up with that answer.

The reason this is so important, Slepian says, is that it is evidence that “the body influences how you think, and that what you are experiencing physically can influence your style of thought.”

Some creative ideas for fluid movements:

  • Hoola Hooping
  • Nia dance
  • Zumba
  • Drawing circles or wavy lines
  • Hula Dancing
  • Taichi
  • Capoeira
  • Painting
  • Belly dance

What’s you favorite form of circular movement? We’d love to hear!


Bess O'Connor

Bess O’Connor, a certified Ayurvedic and Holistic Health Practitioner, explores the heart of health at the core of alternative medicine, massage therapy, conscious movement, nutrition, meditation and other healing traditions.


This entry is tagged with:
CreativityStudiesResearchMovementBrain Function

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