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Meditate To Create

April 20, 2012

Study suggests certain meditation techniques significantly enhance creative thinking

In a study published on April 18, 2012 in the open-access journal Frontiers in Cognition, researchers at Leiden University, led by Lorenza Colzato, suggest that certain types of meditation can be an effective tool for enhancing creativity.

The study is the first of its kind to investigate the differential effect of diverse meditation techniques on the two main ingredients of most creative activities: divergent and convergent thinking. Divergent thinking, a style of thinking that allows many new ideas being generated, was measured by the “Alternate Uses Task” technique, which requires participants to generate as many possible uses of a particular object, such as a pen.  Convergent thinking, in contrast, is a process of generating one possible solution to a particular problem and was assessed by the “Remote Associates Task” technique, in which participants are presented with three unrelated words, such as “time” “hair” and “stretch” and are to identify the common associate “long”.

Colzato employed creativity tasks tapping into convergent and divergent thinking to measure whether certain meditation techniques affect creative activities. The meditation techniques analyzed were Open-Monitoring (OM) meditation, in which the individual is open to perceive and observe any sensation or thought without focusing on a concept in the mind, and Focused- Attention (FA) meditation, in which the individual focuses on a particular thought or object.

These findings show that not all types of meditation have these same effects on creativity.  After OM, but not after FA meditation, participants performed better in divergent thinking than convergent thinking. Additionally, FA meditation had no significant effects on convergent thinking.

Most importantly, this study strongly suggests that the benefits of OM meditation go beyond mere relaxation and it reinforces the view that meditation practice can have a lasting and generalizable impact on human cognition.

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