If Pigs Could Fly…

In the late 80s, researchers studying logical learning in children gave a group of 4 year olds the premise that ‘all pigs can fly’ and that ‘John is a pig’. Most of the kids had trouble reaching the conclusion that ‘John can fly’, until the researchers changed the instructions a little.

When the researchers first told the kids ‘let’s pretend that [all pigs can fly]…’, their performance on this task improved significantly. Somehow, transferring the rule to a pretend world helped the children in reasoning abstractly about that world.

The exact mechanism of why pretending helps with reasoning is not fully clear, but research in the last couple of decades has shown that pretend scenarios play an important role in cognitive development.

Psychologists, Weisberg and Gopnik, have proposed that unrealistic pretend scenarios don’t just help with counterfactual reasoning – they are also important for causal learning which can in some cases be harder to do with real-world scenarios. As they explain about Einstein’s theories, “Einstein’s thought experiments are a good scientific example of how unrealistic counterfactuals can help to distinguish potential causal structures. Both relativistic and classical theories of physics make similar predictions in commonly observed cases. Considering very unlikely possibilities, such as a world where the speed of light is different, can help discriminate between these theories.

Unrealistic pretend scenarios are also an integral part of creative thinking and utilize, among other things, associative thinking. For instance, comprehending the statement, ‘If dogs had gills…’, requirescreation of an unusual conceptual combination (‘dogs’ and ‘gills’) with potential consequences that go beyond what is literally stated.

Torrance, also known as the father of creativity, included two tasks (‘Just Suppose’ and ‘Consequences Task’) around improbable situations in his Torrance Test of Creative Thinking.

Our newest category of brainteasers at MindAntix, ‘What Would Happen If…’, present unrealistic scenarios and ask users to come up with as many reasonable consequences as possible. Our goal is to build the cognitive processes underlying logical and creative thinking like disengaging with reality, making inferences and associative thinking.

So, the next time you are bored try making up a new world where the usual rules don’t apply. How would things be different in that world? What would happen as a consequence of those strange new rules? And maybe while thinking about that you might even discover a new insight about our own world!

Complete the Picture

We often get compliments and questions about our homepage graphics, so we figured we’ll explain the inspiration behind the design, and also announce our fun summer challenge!

The design is a riff on the Picture Construction Task, from the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking, or the TTCT. The TTCT was developed in the 1960s by Ellis Paul Torrance, a psychologist who pioneered research in Creativity in the United States, and has become the most widely used Creativity test in the world. Prof. Kyung Hee Kim, who first documented the decline in Creativity in the US has found that the TTCT predicts creative achievement better than any other creativity or divergent thinking test.

The TTCT contains open ended tasks grouped as verbal (using either verbal or non-verbal stimuli) or figural. As Torrance explains, “Each of the tasks is based on a rationale developed from some research finding concerning the nature of the creative process, the creative personality, or the conditions necessary for creative achievement. The tasks are designed to involve as many different aspects of verbal creative functioning as possible.”

Coming back to the Picture Construction Task, which helps to measure a few creative factors like Originality, Elaboration and  Abstractness of titles. In this task, you are given an initial part of drawing (a squiggle or a simple shape) and the goal is to draw a picture where this initial drawing would play an integral part. Below are the instructions that accompany the task:

At the bottom of this page is a piece of colored paper in the form of a curved shape. Think of a picture or an object in which this form would be an important part. Then lift up the piece of colored paper and stick it wherever you want it on the next page, just like you would a postage stamp. Then add lines with pencil or crayon to make your picture.

Try to think of a picture that no one else will think of. Keep adding new ideas to your first idea to make it tell as interesting and as exciting a story as you can.

When you have completed your picture, think up a name or title for it and write it at the bottom of the page in the space provided. Make your title as clever and unusual as possible. Use it to help tell your story.

It’s easy to see how our design ties to the Picture Construction Task. We used each letter in the word “creative” as a stimulus for another picture, like the letter “a” is part of a snail’s body or the letter “v” is part of a star. That brings us to our creative summer challenge.

Can you think of a new way to write “Creative” using each letter as a starting point? Use your summer break to think of a clever idea and send it for a chance to win an Amazon gift card! 

As you start working on the challenge, try to think of ideas no one else would come up with it. Be sure to include an explanation of your design when you send it to us. And don’t worry about your artistic skills – what we are looking for is how creatively you use each of the letters in the design, not necessarily how well you can draw. 

Happy Creative Thinking!

Email your entries (.jpg, .png format) to hello@mindantix.com by Aug 31, 2016 to be eligible for the contest. Gift card value is $25. Contest open to US residents only.