Lie Down to Be More Creative?

April 21, 2009 by  
Filed under Creativity

ligthbubIt seems we can be smarter and more creative lying down than standing up says one researcher.

Dr Darren Lipnicki at the Australian National University (ANU) school of psychology found that people solve anagrams more quickly when lying on their backs than standing on their feet.

Lipnicki tested 20 people who were asked to solve 32 five-letter anagrams while standing, and while lying down. He found that the anagrams were solved more quickly lying down than standing up. The researcher said his subjects reported that while lying down, the solution just *popped into their minds* similar to the aha or Eureka experience associated with major innovative creative breakthroughs.

Lipnicki feels the results are due to the difference in brain chemistry when lying down vs standing up, and specifically to the release of the neurotransmitter noradrenaline. While noradrenaline is normally associated with cognitive ability and focused attention, it is also believed to impair creative thinking. And significantly less noradrenaline is released while lying down.

Archimedes and the ancient reclining poets
Lipnicki concluded that creative thinking might also be facilitated when lying down. He says there is historical evidence for this in the case of the Greek mathematician Archimedes, who concluded while lying in his bath that the amount of water that overflowed his tub was proportional to the amount of his body that was submerged.

The observation became known as Archimedes’ principle — the principle that an object immersed in a fluid experiences a buoyant force equal in magnitude to the force of gravity on the displaced fluid.

Professor of medieval history Donnchadh O’Corrain of University College Cork says medieval Irish poets also composed their complicated court poetry while lying flat on a couch in a darkened room. And there are descriptions dating back to 1571 of how law students studied by lying on flat straw pallets, he says.

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