In their words: Dr Amantha Imber & The power of mental contrasting - Happy + Well : Happy + Well

In their words: Dr Amantha Imber & The power of mental contrasting

Written by on August 12, 2015 in Learning with 0 Comments

images-1There has been so much written about the ‘power of positive thinking’ in the last few years, with motivation gurus telling us to visualise or imagine success, and by doing this, it will become ours. However, the latest scientific research suggests that it may not be this simple, especially when it comes to creativity.

Gabriele Oettingen from New York University and her colleagues set out to investigate how to improve performance on tasks requiring creative thinking. Half of the people in the study were given fake feedback on a test they had completed, telling them that they were highly creative, while others had been told they were only moderate in their ability. In addition, some participants were asked to engage in ‘mental contrasting’, whereby they had to imagine how awesome it would feel to solve some problems that required creative thinking, while also imagining some of the obstacles they might encounter when trying to solve these problems.

After the ‘pre-work’, all participants got stuck into working on a creative problem solving task. Those who had received the positive feedback and engaged in mental contrasting performed significantly better than all other groups. In particular, they performed better than those who had received positive feedback, and only visualised what success would look like with the problem solving tasks, as opposed to also considering obstacles they might encounter.

Thinking about obstacles and challenges isn’t something that people generally hear being proffered as a way of achieving success. Instead, the focus tends to be about visualising success and winning. But clearly, when it comes to creative thinking, it’s important that we also pay attention and deliberately consider potential challenges that get in our way.

So the next time you are working on a project that requires an element of creative thinking, spend some time not only focusing on your own creative abilities and what success could look like, but also on considering what kind of obstacles or sticking points you may encounter on the journey. By using this strategy, you will ensure that you significantly enhance your creative thinking ability.


Dr Amantha Imber is a creativity and innovation psychologist, best-selling author and founder of the award-winning innovation consultancy Inventium. She will be presenting a session at Mind & Its Potential 2015. For more information and to register, please click here.

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