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Uncommon Knowledge

Walk your way to creativity

And more surprising insights from the social sciences

Walk your way to creativity

Creativity is an important ingredient for many jobs, yet workers and employers may be leaving money on the table—by way of the chair. Experiments conducted by researchers from Stanford found that people who were walking were more creative than people who were sitting, whether indoors or outdoors. Walking had enduring effects, such that creativity was also higher when sitting right after walking. Although walking improved creativity, it didn’t improve more routine problem-solving.

Oppezzo, M. & Schwartz, D., “Give Your Ideas Some Legs: The Positive Effect of Walking on Creative Thinking,” Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition (forthcoming).

Should Wall Street
watch the Sox?

It will come as no news that Boston has both prominent sports teams and a deep bench of passionate sports fans. According to a new study, this may mean that the stocks of Boston-area companies are trading on more than fundamentals—and savvy traders might want to start tracking the games. It turns out that the stock prices of companies headquartered near NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL teams are correlated with the winning records of those teams. This correlation, which has increased over time, is stronger where there is a stronger fan base and when teams beat the spread; it’s weaker for larger companies or those with greater institutional ownership. The study notes that “investors who use the recent results of games involving local major league teams can earn returns that are significantly higher” than benchmark returns.

 Pantzalis, C. & Park, J., “Exuberance Out of Left Field: Do Sports Results Cause Investors to Take Their Eyes Off the Ball?” Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization (forthcoming).

Local culture is in your genes

Previous research has shown that European-Americans have a more independent social orientation than people from East Asia. However, researchers at the University of Michigan have now qualified this relationship: Cultural differences are only observed among people with certain variants of a gene associated with dopamine function—and reward sensitivity—in the brain. People with other variants of the gene didn’t show significant cultural differences. This suggests that at least some aspects of local culture are internalized by only a fraction of the population.

Kitayama, S. et al., “The Dopamine D4 Receptor Gene (DRD4) Moderates Cultural Difference in Independent Versus Interdependent Social Orientation,” Psychological Science (forthcoming).

The Ritalin advantage

Why has Ritalin—a drug prescribed to treat ADHD—become such a popular “study drug” among perfectly healthy college kids? New research from the University of Michigan suggests that it may offer a buffer against the mental depletion that people experience after exercising concentration and self-control. Researchers gave people either Ritalin or a placebo an hour before having them perform mentally depleting tasks. The results indicate that Ritalin “fully blocks” the depletion that normally impairs subsequent concentration and self-control.

 Sripada, C. et al., “Methylphenidate Blocks Effort-Induced Depletion of Regulatory Control in Healthy Volunteers,” Psychological Science (forthcoming).


Flower power is real

Note to the ladies: Consider wearing a flower in your hair—there may be something in it for you. In an experiment in France, a 19-year-old white woman who asked middle-aged passersby for money for the bus was significantly more likely to get it–from both male and female passersby–if she wore a barrette with a fake red rose attached.

 Stefan, J. & Guéguen, N., “Effect of Hair Ornamentation on Helping,” Psychological Reports (April 2014).

Kevin Lewis can be reached at kevin.lewis.ideas@gmail.com.