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In other words, the difference could easily be due to what statisticians call sampling error.

Let’s look a little more closely at these surprising results.

What the latest experiment proves is not that creativity lacks any association to thinking outside-the-box, but that such is not conditioned by acquired knowledge, i.e., environmental concerns.

For example, there have been some theories such as those of Schopenhauer (see his remarks about Genius) and Freud (see his remarks about Sublimation) that propose creativity is something more like a capacity provided by nature rather than one acquired or learned from the environment.

Because they hadn’t, they were obviously not as creative or smart as they had previously thought, and needed to call in creative experts. The nine-dot puzzle and the phrase “thinking outside the box” became metaphors for creativity and spread like wildfire in marketing, management, psychology, the creative arts, engineering, and personal improvement circles.

There seemed to be no end to the insights that could be offered under the banner of thinking outside the box.

Only 20 percent managed to break out of the illusory confinement and continue their lines in the white space surrounding the dots.

The symmetry, the beautiful simplicity of the solution, and the fact that 80 percent of the participants were effectively blinded by the boundaries of the square led Guilford and the readers of his books to leap to the sweeping conclusion that creativity requires you to go outside the box.Indeed, the concept enjoyed such strong popularity and intuitive appeal that no one bothered to check the facts.No one, that is, before two different research teams—Clarke Burnham with Kenneth Davis, and Joseph Alba with Robert Weisberg—ran another experiment using the same puzzle but a different research procedure.If you have tried solving this puzzle, you can confirm that your first attempts usually involve sketching lines inside the imaginary square.The correct solution, however, requires you to draw lines that extend beyond the area defined by the dots.Would you like to guess the percentage of the participants in the second group who solved the puzzle correctly?

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