Meditation May Improve Creative Thinking and Problem Solving Interview with:
Dr. Lorenza S. Colzato, Assistant Professor

and Dominque Lippelt, Research Master Student
Cognitive Neuroscience ResearchProgram
Leiden, The Netherlands

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Our study aimed to investigate whether prior meditation experience could modulate the effect of two types of meditation on two aspects of creative thought. Creativity can be thought of as consisting of two main ingredients: Convergent thinking (finding one solution to a defined problem) and divergent thinking (finding many possible solutions to a problem). In a previous study we found that Open Monitoring meditation and Focused Attention meditaton (FAM) have distinguishable effects on creativity. OMM induces a control state that promotes divergent thinking while Focused Attention meditaton does not improve convergent thinking. Our results confirm and extend these findings. Open Monitoring meditation improved performance on a divergent thinking task, while Focused Attention meditaton did not, and these effects were present in both experienced and novice practitioners, suggesting that one does not have to have many years of meditation experience to benefit from its effects. However, while solving convergent thinking problems experienced practitioners tended to solve more problems through insight as opposed to using an analytical strategy, a way of problem solving that bears similarities to divergent thinking.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response:  Patients suffering form disorders that contain aspects of too much convergent or divergent thought might benefit from Focused Attention meditaton or Open Monitoring meditation practice. For instance, patients with schizophrenia could be said to experience too much divergent thought. They easily make associations and perceive connections between events and situations that could lead up to delusional thoughts, hallucinations and paranoia. Our results serve as a warning that those suffering from schizophrenia should not practice Open Monitoring meditation, while Focused Attention meditaton might actually benefit these patients. Similarly other disorders such as ADD/ADHD, and bipolar disorder are also characterized by an increase in divergent thought, and might benefit from Focused Attention meditaton. Conversely, those suffering from anxiety or depression might be too focused on certain fears or stuck in certain ways of thinking. OMM might provide these patients with the possibility to look at their fears in a new way.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response:  In the future we would like to see how long the effects of meditation last. Does it have only immediate effects or do the effects linger for several days or longer? This would also be of vital importance to whether or not meditation could be used as a successful therapeutic technique. Furthermore, are there any individual differences in the responsiveness to the effects of meditation? Does one person benefit more than another; what causes these differences in responsiveness? Specifically, individuals with a certain genetic predisposition might benefit more from Open Monitoring meditation while others might benefit more from Focused Attention meditaton, or yet other meditation techniques such as transcendental meditation or compassion meditation.


Prior Meditation Practice Modulates Performance and Strategy Use in Convergent- and Divergent-Thinking Problems

Lorenza S. Colzato, Ayca Szapora, Dominique Lippelt, Bernhard Hommel. . Mindfulness, 2014; DOI: 10.1007/s12671-014-0352-9