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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.
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.
Solving this problem requires people to literally think outside the box.
Yet participants’ performance was not improved even when they were given specific instructions to do so.
The correct solution, however, requires you to draw lines that extend beyond the area defined by the dots.
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 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.
After all, with one simple yet brilliant experiment, researchers had proven that the conceptual link between thinking outside the box and creativity was a myth. But you will find numerous situations where a creative breakthrough is staring you in the face.