Smarter, More Creative, and a Thousand Miles Away

The Economist has this little tidbit analysis of why people who live or have lived abroad (but not traveled–sorry, kids!) are more creative than those who haven’t. For those of us who live abroad–and we are many–this is comfort food.

Anecdotal evidence has long held that creativity in artists and writers can be associated with living in foreign parts. Rudyard Kipling, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, Paul Gauguin, Samuel Beckett and others spent years dwelling abroad. Now a pair of psychologists has proved that there is indeed a link.

———

To check that they had not merely discovered that creative people are more likely to choose to live abroad, Dr Maddux and Dr Galinsky identified and measured personality traits, such as openness to new experiences, that are known to predict creativity. They then used statistical controls to filter out such factors. Even after that had been done, the statistical relationship between living abroad and creativity remained, indicating that it is something from the experience of living in foreign parts that helps foster creativity.

Of course, none of this explains Emily Dickinson. Or ‘Owlminerva,’ for that matter.

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