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Only 20 percent managed to break out of the illusory confinement and continue their lines in the white space surrounding the dots.
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.
Because they hadn’t, they were obviously not as creative or smart as they had previously thought, and needed to call in creative experts. The nine-dot puzzle and the phrase “thinking outside the box” became metaphors for creativity and spread like wildfire in marketing, management, psychology, the creative arts, engineering, and personal improvement circles.
Even though they weren’t instructed to restrain themselves from considering such a solution, they were unable to “see” the white space beyond the square’s boundaries.
So, take a stroll down memory lane to remember all of our past Word of the Year selections.
Although studying creativity is considered a legitimate scientific discipline nowadays, it is still a very young one. One of Guilford’s most famous studies was the nine-dot puzzle.
Our Word of the Year choice serves as a symbol of each year’s most meaningful events and lookup trends.
It is an opportunity for us to reflect on the language and ideas that represented each year.