A. You are going to listen to a radio programme about creative thinking. Listen to the first part of the programme and answer the questions.
1 Why don’t most people think creatively?
2 What was the gorilla experiment?
3 What happened when Dr Wiseman tried the experiment on a group of top scientists?
1 Because they concentrate too hard on the small job they are working on and don’t see the bigger picture.
2 Volunteers were asked to watch a bit of a basketball match and count the number of passes made by one team. In the middle of the game somebody dressed as a gorilla walked in, but half of the volunteers didn’t notice because they were just concentrating on counting the passes.
3 None of them saw the gorilla.
P = presenter, S = Steven Hutchinson
P And tonight on the book programme we’re reviewing a book called Did you spot the gorilla? by Dr Richard Wiseman, who’s an expert on creative thinking. With us tonight to talk about this book is Steven Hutchinson, a freelance journalist. So Steven, what exactly is Dr Wiseman’s main message?
S Well, Dr Wiseman’s theory is that most people don’t think creatively because they concentrate so hard on the small, specific job that they are working on that they don’t see the bigger picture. That’s what the gorilla experiment proves.
P What was the gorilla experiment?
S Well, a study was carried out by Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris at Harvard University in 1999. He got volunteers to watch a 45-second film of people playing basketball. There were two teams. One team were wearing black T-shirts and the other team were wearing white ones. He gave the volunteers a simple task: they just had to count the number of passes made by the white team.
Afterwards, he asked them how many passes they had counted and most people got the answer right. Then he asked them if they had seen anything unusual and at least half of them said no. And that’s really amazing. Because during the film, while the two teams were playing basketball, a woman dressed as a gorilla walked onto the court and she beat her chest at the camera, and then slowly walked off the court. And half of the volunteers just didn’t see it!
P That’s incredible. Why not?
S Because they were so busy trying to count the passes that they didn’t notice the gorilla! Dr Wiseman repeated this experiment many times and the result was always the same. In fact, he actually tried it on a group of top British scientists and not one of them saw the gorilla.
P How extraordinary!
B. Listen to the rest of the programme and answer the questions.
1 What does the gorilla experiment demonstrate?
2 Why are the three things in the photo examples of creative thinking?
3 What did Dr Wiseman recommend to the journalists? Why?
4 What was Dr Wiseman’s creative idea?
1 That we normally only focus on what we’re looking for and we don’t see anything else.
2 Post-it notes were invented by someone who was trying to make a strong glue, but when the glue he made was not strong enough, he didn’t throw it away but simply thought of a good use for the weak glue. IKEA sells cheap furniture but which is well designed, something that people thought was not possible, and easyJet is an example of a low-cost airline which people also thought was an impossible concept.
3 To do the opposite of what they normally do, e.g. try to think of articles that nobody will find interesting. Maybe this will actually give them an idea for something really interesting.
4 A book containing the first chapters of 15 other books, and a book token with which you can buy the book you like best.
S The gorilla experiment is a perfect demonstration that we normally only focus on what we’re looking for, and don’t see outside it, so we sometimes miss really important discoveries which are right in front of us, we just don’t see them. That’s why when something is invented people often say, ‘Why didn’t anybody think of that before?’ – well, they didn’t because they didn’t think creatively.
P Dr Wiseman gives some examples of people who he says are creative thinkers, doesn’t he?
S Yes, people like the man who invented Post-it TM notes. He was actually trying to develop a really strong kind of glue, but he could only manage to make a very weak one. But instead of just thinking, ‘Oh that’s no good’ he actually thought of a way of using the weak glue to make Post-it TM notes, notes that would stick to something but not too much. Or the man who set up IKEA, the furniture company – I mean for years people had been wanting cheap furniture that was well designed, but nobody did it. Or the idea of cheap air travel. People just accepted that it was impossible. But then somebody said ‘It is possible, and I’m going to do it’. And that’s how we got low-cost airlines like easyJet.
P Can we make ourselves creative thinkers?
S Yes, Dr Wiseman has lots of tips on how we can become more creative. One of the things he recommends is to try to do the opposite of what you normally do. For example, he told a group of journalists to try to think of articles that nobody would find interesting – he said that from that, possibly a brilliant idea for something interesting will come up. His book is full of tips – it’s really worth reading.
P Has he had any ‘Eureka moments’ himself?
S Yes, actually he’s thought up ag great idea for book lovers. His idea is to print a book which contains the first chapters of 15 other different books. This book has a book token in the back, a voucher that you can use to buy another book. The idea is that you read the beginnings and then choose which book you want to read more of and buy it with the book token.
P What a great idea! That’s creative thinking for you.
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