To Boost Creativity, Study Abroad
New research confirms that spending a semester studying overseas enhances one’s ability to find innovative solutions.
Looking to hire someone who will make a creative contribution to your organization? Here’s a tip: When checking applicants’ college transcripts, don’t focus exclusively on their grades or honors.
Take note of whether they spent time studying abroad.
That’s the implication of newly published research, which provides the best evidence yet that studying overseas boosts one’s creativity. A semester spent in Spain or Senegal leads to higher creativity scores on two different tests, according to research conducted by Christine Lee, David Therriault, and Tracy Linderholm of the University of Florida, Gainesville.
“Cultural experiences from living abroad have wide-reaching benefits on students’ creativity, including the facilitation of complex cognitive processes that promote creative thinking,” the researchers write in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology.
The link between studying abroad and enhanced creativity was first made in a 2009 paper by William Maddux and Adam Galinsky, who found students who spent time overseas were more likely to come up with innovative insights. Like many studies, however, it didn’t quite establish causality. The authors couldn’t say for certain that the experience was transformative, admitting it is possible that people choose to study outside the country are more creative to begin with.