How would you use an unexpected free day? Psychologists Darya Zabelina and Michael Robinson of North Dakota State University asked college students to write what they would do if school were cancelled for the day. A subset of study participants received the additional instruction to imagine themselves as seven-year-olds.
The researchers say maturing into adulthood strengthens impulse control, logical problem-solving, and self-monitoring. Spontaneity and originality decline. Children approach challenges as exploration and play, adults as a quest for the right solution.
While we can’t turn back the clock on brain development and probably wouldn’t want to, a childlike mindset enhances creativity — in introverts. Introverts are capable of play and spontaneity but don’t often show it. Envisioning themselves as adults, the introverts in the study scored much lower on creative originality than their extraverted peers. But when they imagined themselves as children, introverts soared to the top of the creativity charts. Extraverts, less inhibited, fell somewhere in the middle regardless of adultlike or childlike mindset.
Unleashing your inner child to enhance creativity goes beyond the fluff of pop culture, especially if you’re an introvert.
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.