A study by a research group at the Max Planck Institute examined how children employ creativity when faced with novel tasks. The researchers found that children’s broad attention focus allows them to process less relevant information and use it to develop new creative strategies when solving tasks. The findings were published in PLOS ONE.
The researchers investigated how children discover and use novel aspects of the environment to process information and make decisions. The team gave a group of 47 children (ages 8-10 years old) and a group of 39 young adults (ages 20-35 years old) a decision-making task: to determine the position of a pattern using two possible answers. The color of the pattern was not relevant at first, but became relevant as the task progressed. Participants who noticed this pattern solved the task more quickly and easily.
The children performed significantly worse than the young adults on the task, and they made more errors. However, the proportion of children (27.5%) who discovered and used the helpful color strategy was close to that of the young adults (28.2%). One key finding was that if children used the initial strategies and rules, they performed worse in all areas of cognitive control. However, an almost equal proportion of children compared to the young adults were able to improve through an "aha moment."
Knowledge created around the "aha moment" is an important finding of the study. Co-author Anika Löwe stated, “Our findings provide evidence that educators, parents, and teachers should be less insistent on rigid rules by only teaching one concrete way to solve problems, but also value and encourage children's broader attentional focus.” She advises adults to have confidence in children's creative problem-solving strategies.
Studying improvisation offers insights into the neural connections involved in creative thinking. Psychologist and neuroscientist Dr. Nicolas Schuck explained that children often use creative, flexible thinking when engaging in a new task. He states, "Our results show that while children are often less focused and more easily distracted than adults, they are surprisingly flexible in discovering entirely new solutions." The findings have implications for researching learning behavior in children."
Source: PLOS ONE