Eye exercise may boost creativity

A study in the scientific journal Brain and Cognition suggests that increasing the "crosstalk" between the brain's left and right hemispheres can increase creativity. Researchers from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey ran an experiment on 62 people to gauge creative thinking. After a first try at the task, some of the participants were told to shift their eyes horizontally back and forth for 30 seconds, an exercise that boosts the communication between the hemispheres. Those subjects performed much better on the test the second time around than a control group who stared straight ahead. The scientists published the results of their study in the journal Brain and Cognition. From the British Psychological Society Research Digest:
An important factor that the researchers took note of was the participants' handedness. Prior research has suggested that people who have one hand that is particularly dominant, so-called "strong-handers", have less cross-talk between their brain hemispheres compared with people who are more ambidextrous or "mixed handed"...

The key finding is that on their second creativity attempt, strong-handers who'd performed the horizontal eye movements subsequently showed a significant improvement in their creativity, in terms of being more original (i.e. suggesting ideas not proposed by others) and coming up with more categories of use...

The researchers also showed that, for strong-handers, the beneficial effects of the eye movement exercise lasted nine minutes for originality, but just three to six minutes in terms of coming up with more categories of use.

"Performing horizontal eye movement exercises can boost your creativity"


  1. i downloaded some speedreading software mostly for this. i can say that it did go a long way toward getting the juices flowing, with eye exercises that darted around and growing boxed that expended my field of focus. Did it every morning while i ate breakfast to help wake up that part of my brain. And the reading boost was nice, too. It’s been a while. i should start doing that again.

  2. boxes that expAnded my focus, i should say. “expended” is almost exactly the opposite of what i meant to type.

  3. I wonder if this is semi confirmation of an intuition I had about myself with regards Nobuyuki Kayahara’s famous Silhouette Illusion (http://www.procreo.jp/labo/silhouette.swf). I had a lot of trouble getting her to switch directions so I spent the better part of a week practicing, essentially training my brain to loosen up. I felt then that doing this exercise would help me with other aspects of my consciousness and creativity and I *think* (anecdotal evidence, anyone?) it helped me.

    This guy might not agree: http://www.michaelbach.de/ot/sze_silhouette/index.html

  4. I had a therapist once recommend a treatment called “EMDR.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EMDR It aimed to reduce emotional trauma around an issue by having you recall it while moving your eyes back and forth horizontally. I thought it sounded way too out there for me so I politely declined. But when I hear a study like this claiming benefit from bilateral stimulation… it makes you wonder.

    1. I too once had a therapist recommend this. She preceded the explanation of it with, “You’re probably going to think this is totally out there…” , which I did.

    2. EMDR has been efficacious in some studies for dealing with trauma. A lecturer in my clinical psychology class obtained training in the technique and has used it sucessfully with several clients. He also uses more conventional exposure based therapies. He’s not sure of its causal mechanism but thinks it may be due at least in part to the person recounting their trauma during the procedure. This is similar to normal exposure methods where a person recounts their trauma multiple times in the therapy setting in order to dissipate the associated emotional reactions over time.

      Francine Shapiro developed the technique and has tight rein over all training sessions and many studies that have explored its efficacy. This has made by lecturer suspicious of the technique, but as a clinical psyc he is able to use empirically supported therapies with his clients, and EMDR meets this criterion.

  5. @PeaceLove…Very interesting. When I was younger I thought I had an OCD thing going on because I would not be able to stare at anything spinning, particularly ceiling fans, without making them spin in the opposite direction in my mind. Perhaps I should revisit that addiction.

  6. “Yogis have been doing this for thousands of years.”

    give me a break. it’s just a coincidence. there is no way ancient “wisdom” (HA!) has anything to offer us advanced civilized humans. it’s just a bunch of made up nonsense that has no bearing on reality.

    I, of course, am an idiot.

  7. Yes, there is a connection, but just waggling your eyes is not where it’s at. I got a huge increase in creativity when I took a drafting class. This was back when drafting was done on paper, with pencils, and any mistake, such as starting in the wrong part of the paper, meant erasing some or all of the drawing and doing it again. I very quickly developed the ability to imagine the entire drawing so I could start in the correct place, and that ability has had a lasting effect on my engineering career. Drafting with a computer does not have any such requirement, so it does not teach creativity even though the eye activity is approximately the same.

  8. That’s it – I’m bringing my ancient Atari, Pong and a huge widescreen TV to my workplace. Just so we can all boost our creativity. All day.

  9. Man, the comments here are a lot of fun! I didn’t know people could do this sort of thing without getting into flame wars.

    Also, this makes me think of the huge corpus collosum (sp?) that women have, compared to men. I’d heard that that correlates well to women’s problem solving style which, generally, tends to look more for relationships between disparate areas/events that relate to the problem, while men go more for intensive gray matter use.

    Once, I was building some shelves in my garage. I put the frame up, and then tried to fit the large shelves onto it. Wouldn’t fit. After a while, my wife suggested I open the nearby door, to make more room. Duh. The shelves fit right in.

  10. I wonder whether it has anything to do with the eye exercise of if it’s simply the distraction of doing anything (rather than sitting there and stewing, trying to figure out how to solve the problem).

    I have the same question about the study that said playing Tetris reduces traumatic memories, where the control group also was assigned no task.

  11. So. when a cop gives you the HGN field sobriety test (follow my pen with your eyes) he’s actually increasing your creativity. Gee thanks officer!

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