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Feeling creative? Maybe you’re in love

Can falling in love — or even thinking about it — make you more creative?

Yes, according to some new and intriguing experiments by a team of Dutch researchers. They’ve found our minds work differently when we’re in a romantic relationship.

Being smitten with the love bug apparently makes us think more “globally” and less analytically — a neural shift known to promote creative problem-solving.

Here’s no surprise: Love also accentuates the halo effect, the psychological phenomenon by which we tend to pile all sorts of positive (and often non-existing) traits on a person because he or she has one trait we like (or love). What is surprising, though, is that when we’re in love we tend to extend that halo effect to our evaluations of other objects — even inanimate ones, like chairs! The halo effect, say psychologists, is a reflection of global (and thus more creative) thought processes.

Ah, but don’t confuse thoughts of love with thoughts of sex. The same experiments found that when subliminally presented with words that put them in a “sex condition” as opposed to a “love condition” (don’t you enjoy scientists’ jargon?), volunteers solved fewer creativity problems — but more analytical ones.

Being in a “sex condition” also caused the halo effect to diminish.

You’ll find a great discussion of this research at Scientific American’s Mind Matters blog. As psychologists Nira Liberman and Oren Shapira note in their summary of the studies, “The takeaway lesson is that thinking about love, or anything that promotes a distal perspective or global processing, can make us more creative. Perhaps love is an especially potent way to induce in us a sense of transcendence — being in the here and now yet also contemplating the distant future and maybe even eternity.”

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