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Let’s look a little more closely at these surprising results.Solving this problem requires people to literally think outside the box.The symmetry, the beautiful simplicity of the solution, and the fact that 80 percent of the participants were effectively blinded by the boundaries of the square led Guilford and the readers of his books to leap to the sweeping conclusion that creativity requires you to go outside the box.The idea went viral (via 1970s-era media and word of mouth, of course).The correct solution, however, requires you to draw lines that extend beyond the area defined by the dots.At the first stages, all the participants in Guilford’s original study censored their own thinking by limiting the possible solutions to those within the imaginary square (even those who eventually solved the puzzle).The first group was given the same instructions as the participants in Guilford’s experiment.The second group was told that the solution required the lines to be drawn outside the imaginary box bordering the dot array.
Indeed, the concept enjoyed such strong popularity and intuitive appeal that no one bothered to check the facts.
In the 1970s, however, very few were even aware of its existence, even though it had been around for almost a century.
If you have tried solving this puzzle, you can confirm that your first attempts usually involve sketching lines inside the imaginary square.
Yet participants’ performance was not improved even when they were given specific instructions to do so.
That is, direct and explicit instructions to think outside the box did not help.
There seemed to be no end to the insights that could be offered under the banner of thinking outside the box.