You Can Boost Your Creativity by Imagining You're Someone Else

Break out of a rut by giving another persona a try.

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By Nina Zipkin • Jun 2, 2017

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Do you feel like you are creatively blocked? Well, we have a solution for you: psychological halloweenism.

No, you're not going to wear orange and black, play the Monster Mash and try to figure out the Wolfman's childhood trauma. Well, you could, but you might get some weird looks.

Psychological halloweenism is a term that Harvard Medical School professor, author and NeuroBusiness Group CEO Srini Pillay came up with to describe the action of trying on a different identity or perspective to get you thinking in a more creative way.

Related: Creatively Blocked? These 20 Founders Share Their Most Effective Strategies.

In a recent piece in Harvard Business Review, Pillay cites a study with a group of college students from last winter conducted by researchers Denis Dumas and Kevin Dunbar. The psychologists told one third of the participants to imagine they were eccentric poets and had another third pretend that they were rigid librarians. They compared the results of these categories to a control group that just behaved as they normally would.

Dumas and Dunbar gave the students the names of 10 run-of-the-mill objects, things such as book, carrot, fork, pants and shovel. The students then had two minutes to say what each object was used for before moving onto the next in the queue on the computer screen.

Related: I Took an Improv Training Course -- and It Changed How I Brainstorm

It turns out that pretending to be a creative person actually made people more innovative.

"We found that when participants took on an uninhibited stereotype (i.e., eccentric poet) both their fluency and originality was significantly enhanced," Dumas and Dunbar wrote.

So the next time you feel stuck, give psychological halloweenism a try and pretend to be your favorite artist or fictional mad scientist.

Nina Zipkin

Entrepreneur Staff

Staff Writer. Covers leadership, media, technology and culture.

Nina Zipkin is a staff writer at Entrepreneur.com. She frequently covers leadership, media, tech, startups, culture and workplace trends.

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