Study reveals creative people savour idle time more than others


According to a new study by University of Arizona researchers, creative people are more likely  to spend their downtime during the day exploring their minds.

The study published in the creativity Research Journal finds that creative people are more likely to prolifically use idle time by letting one idea lead to another. Study participants who were more creative, felt less bored when they sat alone in a room, researchers found. It was noted that creative people optimally used COVID-19 pandemic as it made them less boring and more engaged.

“I am particularly interested in creativity because we wanted to know what’s going in the mind of creative individuals, especially in situations when nothing constrains their thoughts” said lead study author Quentin Raffaeli, a graduate student in the UArizona Department of psychology.

History is filled with anecdotes of famous scientists, artists, and philosophers who enjoyed being alone with their thoughts, and they often generated some of their best ideas during idle time, noted Andrews-Hanna. “In today’s busy and digitally connected society, time to be alone with one’s thoughts without distraction may be becoming a rare commodity,” she added.

While many participants had a tendency to jump between seemingly unrelated thoughts, creative individuals showed signs of thinking more associatively, stated Raffaeli.

The first experiment also found that creative people were more engaged in their thoughts when they were left alone without distractions, such as cell phone and internet.

“Creative people rated themselves as being less bored, even over those 10 minutes. They also spoke more words overall, which indicated that their thoughts were more likely to move freely,” said Andrews-Hanna.

To complement their initial findings, the researchers extended their study in the context of a much larger span of time—the COVID-19 pandemic—when many people were alone with their thoughts more often.