Continuing with the idea of priming, Richard Wiseman in his book 59 Seconds researches the work of Jens Forster from the International University Bremen in Germany. Forster asked people to participate in simple creativity exercises in environments that were specifically controlled and measured. Forster began with an activity to mentally prime individuals by asking them to think about a certain stereotype, and measuring their creative ideas. Following his mental priming experiment Forster executed a visual priming experiment. As Wiseman explains,
“Forster asked participants to take a standard creativity task (“think of as many uses for a brick as possible”) while seated in front of one of two specially created art prints . The two prints were each about three feet square, almost identical and consisted of twelve large crosses against a light green background. In one picture all of the crosses were dark green, while in the other print eleven were dark green and one was yellow. The researchers speculated that the unconscious mind would perceive this single yellow cross as breaking away from its more conservative and conventional green cousins and that this would encourage more radical and creative thinking. The results were astounding. Even though the participants didn’t consciously notice the picture, those seated in front of the “creative” picture produced significantly more uses for the brick. A panel of experts judged their responses as far more creative. The message is clear: if you want to fast track a group or and individual to think more creatively, use the power of visual priming.”
I find this experiment and idea to be really inspiring. I have created my own simple art prints and placed them around my desk at work to help me generate more creative ideas throughout the day. Prior to reading Wiseman’s book and beginning to listen to podcasts like Debbie Millman’s Design Matters, I never thought of myself as creative, but Forster’s experiments shows that everyone can be creative, especially if we prime ourselves for creativity both mentally and visually.