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Research from the University of Utah found that adults performed better in creative tests after spending four to six days outdoors without access to gadgets.
The study took 56 volunteers with an average age of 28 taking part in an Outward Bound course. At the outset, 24 of the volunteers took a creative problem solving test. After 4 days trekking, without computers, mobile phones or any other modern technology the other 32 volunteers took the test. The test used, the Remote Associates Test takes combinations of connected words and ask the subject for a word linking the other words. For example, given the words "magic”, "power” and "pitch” the connected word would be "black”.
The 24 volunteers taking the test at the start scored an average of four out of ten on the test. Those who took the test after 4 days hiking scored six out of ten on average. The 50% improvement is statistically significant. Professor David Strayer said:
"We show that four days of immersion in nature and the corresponding disconnection from multimedia and technology increases performance on a creativity, problem-solving task by a full 50 per cent.”
"We are not sure if it is the increased exposure to nature or the decrease in exposure to attention demanding technology that helps, but it's probably a mixture of both.”
"This is away of showing that interacting with nature has real, measurable benefits to creative problem-solving that really hadn't been formally demonstrated before.”
While it might not be practical to take a four day hike when you're next stuck on a problem the study does show the benefits of exercise and engaging with nature, so perhaps a long walk at the weekend is in order.
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