#2. Try Looking at an Apple Logo
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There's nothing magical about the logo itself, and even Apple fans wouldn't claim that their devices have mystical brain-boosting powers. But, for about 30 straight years, Apple has been marketing their products as the tools of eccentric, outside-the-box thinkers (people who "think different," in fact). And advertising works. So today, if you mentally picture a bunch of artsy eccentric types working in a room, you're not picturing them with a bunch of Dells. You're picturing a room full of glowing white Apple silhouettes. You just can't help but make that association.
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"Bow down and worship your ... creative ... creator? Crap, I'm looking at the wrong side, hold on."
So, according to a paper from the Journal of Consumer Research, one way to keep your nonlinear-thinking muscles well-oiled and flexing like the cast of Predator might be to simply look at the Apple logo. Fortunately, odds are there's one within your field of vision this very moment. Otherwise you may need to head to a coffee shop to get this one to work.
The study itself was originally based on the idea that people assign specific human traits to various corporate logos -- the McDonald's "M" seems warm and friendly, the Walmart brand is cold and impassive. All of this is based on how we view these companies in the culture, due to their relentless ad campaigns, or whatever other reason. So the researchers found that when people are "primed" with certain logos, it puts them in a certain frame of mind. And in the case of Apple, test subjects experienced an increase in both creativity and ingenuity just from being exposed to the company's half-eaten-fruit bannerman.
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"What about a stick-shaped pinata? You could use it to hit other pinatas and get double the candy!"
The research was conducted with 341 university students split into two groups, with one group being shown a series of subliminal Apple logos and the other being shown the logo for IBM. Each group was then tasked with listing as many unusual uses for a brick as they could think of, because if you're going to test a person's ingenuity, you might as well give them an object with precisely one non-bludgeoning function.
Sure enough, the study found that the Apple group was able to come up with more uses for the brick than the IBM group, all because of the feelings of technomancing discovery the Apple logo had instilled within them. So if your boss happens to walk by your desk and see you staring intently at your iPhone, you can tell him or her that you are busy stoking the roaring fires of innovation without a shred of irony.
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"You can thank me later. Now get out of my office -- you're hindering my work, mortal."
#1. Make Hand Gestures (With Both Hands)
The connection between abstract thinking and hand motions is both weird and pervasive -- we have previously mentioned that scientists found that you could improve your memory by associating a hand gesture with the thing you're memorizing and that public speakers use hand gestures to trick you into agreeing with them. And sure enough, according to a study published in Psychological Science in 2011, making small physical gestures with both of your hands can help increase your creative thinking.
We're not suggesting that you start juggling bean bags or doing card tricks at your desk (although that would make you irresistible to your co-workers), but the mere act of using your hands to represent different aspects of a problem can help your mind separate and organize ideas. It's the difference between merely describing how you'd, say, perform a chokehold on a victim, versus actually getting up and demonstrating it. It just helps you visualize the idea -- and the more complex the idea, the more help you need visualizing it.
"Oh, wait, I get it. You're chopping mattress prices in half because you're insane!"
And it helps to use both hands -- the above study examined a group of people who were presented with a series of common objects and asked to come up with unusual new ways the objects could be put to use, such as using a coin as a makeshift flat head screwdriver or, say, turning a bra into a slingshot. Some people were instructed to make gestures with both hands while they came up with their answers, whereas the others were told to use only one.
The group that made dual-handed gestures provided the most inventive responses, which makes sense when you consider that there are only so many gestures you can make with a single hand. But it's surprising that limiting the ability to gesture actually prevented the rest from coming up with ideas ... and that you might be stifling your brain by sitting there with your left hand on your chin and your right on the mouse.
"OK, now what do I do with this glowy screen thing again? Do I eat it? Yeah, that sounds right."
Speaking of boosting your brain power, check out this video from this article's sponsor, Virgin Mobile.
For more ways to make you more awesome, check out 5 Ways to Get Rich (Without a Single Discernible Skill) and 6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person.