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Need A Creative Boost?

Ever play dress up as a kid? How about as an adult? When you have a date or an important meeting, do you have a go-to outfit? Something that makes you feel smarter, sexier, more respectable? Psychiatrist Srini Pillay coined the term “Psychological Halloweenism” and it could be the cure to your creative funk.

People often think of creativity as a fixed state or something we’re born with, but studies have shown that there are ways to eke that creativity out of us. You may have heard of the brick test used to test divergent thinking. The number of ideas that someone comes up with accounts for fluency while the originality of ideas tests creativity. In a spin on that test, education psychologists Denis Dumas and Kevin Dunbar did a different test that studied the impact of stereotypes on a person’s behavior. Much like the brick test, they gave their participants ten regular objects: a carrot, a fork, a pair of pants, etc. Instead of just asking for uses, they asked their test subjects to think of themselves as certain stereotypes. They instructed one group to think like “eccentric poets” while another group was to imagine themselves as “rigid librarians.” The third group was the control group, and they were left alone. Can you guess which group came up with the most uses? If you guessed eccentric poets, you guessed correctly.

Some of us go for walks, listen to music, read literature, I’ve been recently turning to TED talk podcasts because they make me feel smarter after I listen to them. Sometimes I need more though. “Psychological Halloweenism” is the act of mentally “dressing up” as a creative person—say, an architect, painter, or an inventor —and acting as someone else. It’s the act of breaking out of our own routine and stimulating our brains in a different way. So put on that painter’s cap or don a monocle, whatever might make you feel like the creative you are and get to creating!

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