‘Thinking cap’ actually makes people ‘think outside the box’

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

MELBOURNE - It’s official - the ‘thinking cap’ developed by Australian researchers really makes people ‘think outside the box’.

Professor Allan Snyder and Richard Chi from Sydney University’s Centre of the Mind, said subjects wearing the cap were able to acquire new modes of thinking and were three times as likely to solve complex problems.

“We look at the world through what we know,” Snyder told News.com.au.

“We have lots of preconceptions that allow us to manoeuvre quickly in the world, but that has a downside. That downside is that we tend to see the world as it was rather than as it is,” he added.

The cap is designed to counter that condition, opening the brain up to new ways of thinking.

First reported on over two years ago, the ‘thinking cap’ experiments have since yielded positive results with zero side effects.

Urban legends have abounded for decades about people struck by lightning who suddenly acquire the ability to play Brahm’s piano concerto, or head- trauma patients suddenly developing artistic abilities they didn’t have before.

In many of these cases, brain trauma victims experience a suppression of the left temporal lobe that frees up the right side of the brain to be more creative.

Snyder and Chi’s cap artificially manipulates the hemispheres of the brain to recreate the phenomenon.

After being exposed to low-level electrical pulses for 10 to 15 minutes, subjects were easily able to acquire new modes of thinking and were able to apply them for up to an hour.

The subjects were also three times as likely to solve complex problems while wearing the cap.

“Without the stimulation, only 20 per cent of people could do it,” said Chi.

“With the stimulation, 60 per cent of people could solve the problem,” he added.

Despite such results, he said the ‘thinking cap’ was not designed to make people smarter.

“Its advantage isn’t in acquiring more knowledge quickly,” he said.

“Its advantage is in seeing the world anew. Taking ideas from different places and developing them into a new synthesis. It’s more of a ‘creativity cap’,” he added.

The hypothesis and results have been published in scientific peer review journal PLoS ONE. (ANI)

Filed under: Science and Technology

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