Science

Scientists say nibbling something SWEET could help to boost your creativity

If you’re struggling to complete your crossword or your Wordle, you could try nibbling something sweet.

The taste of sweetness can boost creativity, researchers have found.

But it’s not about the brain getting a sugary hit, they said.

The effect of the sweet taste was specific to creativity – and did not improve people’s performance on analytical, attention-to-detail tasks.

The link with creativity is thought to be due to the way humans associate sweet taste with positive experiences and situations.

Because positive situations are non-threatening, they allow our minds to become more open, said lead researcher Dr Lidan Xu.

If you’re struggling to complete your crossword or your Wordle, you could try nibbling something sweet

Background music disrupts creativity 

The common belief that music boosts brain function and spurs creativity may be little more than a myth, after researchers found ‘strong’ evidence to suggest the opposite to be true.

Music was found to significantly ‘disrupt’ a host of brain functions that are associated with creativity, including verbal ability and problem solving, a new study has showed.

Performing these tasks under library environments however did not affect performance when compared to with working in the quiet.

Putting background music on while you work or revise could in fact stunt creativity and prevents concentration, contrary to popular belief.

Read more 

‘When people perceive the nature of a situation is positive, no threat, they are willing to adopt an explorative mindset, which broadens their attention to encompass novel ideas,’ said Dr Xu, from the University of North Texas in the U.S.

In contrast, analytical and attention-to-detail tasks require a more narrow, rigid focus, she said.

And it’s not necessary to actually feel a positive mood change from the sweet taste for it to increase our creativity – it still acts as a cue to more inspired thinking because of our history with sweet food, said Dr Xu.

‘Sweet taste can independently influence creativity because of the associations that people have developed with the sweet taste experience, above and beyond what sweet taste does for our mood,’ said Dr Xu.

‘Sweet food is often consumed in a positive environment, such as when you are seeking comfort, during celebrations (e.g. birthdays), or family/friends gatherings,’ she said.

‘Evolutionarily, sweetness is also considered the most pleasurable taste in nature and is considered benign.

‘In fact, in old times, people tried to use taste to differentiate whether a food was toxic or not, so sweet food signals safety, energy, and non-toxic.

‘Because of these positive associations that people have developed over a long period of time, sweetness has been developed into a positive implicit affective [relating to mood] cue.’

The researchers, whose findings are published in the journal Organizational Behaviour and Human Decision Processes, carried out seven different experiments.

The effect of the sweet taste was specific to creativity - and did not improve people's performance on analytical, attention-to-detail tasks

The effect of the sweet taste was specific to creativity – and did not improve people’s performance on analytical, attention-to-detail tasks

These included a blind taste test with different tasting liquids to establish that it was indeed the sensory experience of sweetness, rather than another taste, that was driving the creativity. This experiment also tracked participants’ mood and found that sweet taste didn’t actually have to make people feel happier in order to have the effect.

Other experiments directly compared the effect of sweet taste on creative vs non-creative tasks.

And a further test found that overriding the positive connections people made with sweet tastes by telling them how bad for their health sugary things were weakened the effect of the sweet taste on creativity, showing that it is the link with positivity that is the driving force.

But if you’re reading this thinking about the effect of sweet treats on your waistline, you could try simply imagining one instead: one of the experiments found that just focusing on the idea of a sweet taste vs imagining salty, bitter and neutral tastes, led to higher creative performance.

‘Of course, there is no question that consuming excessive amounts of sugar is bad for one’s health, and we do not advocate for an increase in sugar consumption,’ said Dr Xu.

‘Importantly, our studies demonstrate that the effect of sweet taste on creativity may emerge even with a mere taste of a sweet snack – such as a single candy, bite-sized cookie, or piece of dried fruit.

‘We also show that the effect occurs without actual consumption,’ she said, adding that simply imagining a ‘sweet taste experience can foster creative output’.

WORKING FROM HOME REDUCES CREATIVITY COMMUNICATION AND TEAMWORK

Working from home reduces creativity, communication and teamwork, a new study from researchers at Microsoft has revealed.

Researchers at the Redmond, Washington-based tech giant looked at data from more than 61,000 employees at the company from December 2019, prior to lockdown, to June 2020.

They found working from home (WFH) made workers ‘more siloed in how they communicate’ and forced them to engage in fewer real-time conversations.

It also made it harder for employees across different departments to acquire and share new information, which could have implications for a company’s ‘productivity and innovation’.

On the other hand, working from home meant employees were spending fewer hours in meetings – often criticised as overlong and a waste of time.

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