Steve Jobs often referred to meditation as the main source of his creativity. In yet another experiment conducted on the specific benefits of meditation on creativity it has been shown that some techniques can promote creative thinking.
The study conducted by cognitive psychologist Lorenza Colzato and Dominique Lippelt at Leiden University was published in Mindfulness.
Forty individuals participated in the study which saw them meditate for 25 minutes before doing their tasks. The group involved both experienced mediators and people who never meditated before.
The study sought to investigate the influences of two types of meditative techniques on convergent and divergent thinking, the two ingredients of creativity.
Convergent thinking as focussed in most educational systems requires students to find the right answer among a few alternatives. Three or more unrelated words were presented to the participants asking them to find one common link.
Divergent thinking on the other hand allows for many new ideas to be generated to a problem. Participants are required to think up as many uses as possible for a particular object, such as a pen.
The focused attention (FA) technique saw participants focus on one object and blank out all other thoughts while the open monitoring (OM) meditation style allows for experiencing all thoughts that come to the mind.
Engaging in OM meditation (as compared to FA meditation) yielded better performance in divergent thinking, irrespective of previous experience or training.
This suggests that the technique induces a temporary mind state that reduces top-down control and allows for a more associative spreading of activation in memory, says the paper.
This also fits with the observation that OM meditation impaired truly analytical thinking in the convergent thinking task while supporting alternative, less analytical search strategies.
FA meditation was shown to be less effective and did not produce a systematic positive impact on either convergent or divergent thinking.
At least with the OM meditation technique it was found that prior practice is not a necessary requirement for meditation to impact creativity.
Long-term meditation training helped in convergent thinking but not with divergent thinking.