Go on that Vacation!!
By Jeffrey Farbman, M.D.
Is it true that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy? Perhaps or perhaps not, but it is now known that always working and playing in the same location without the ability to experience different cultures and ways of thought that travel affords certainly makes Jack an inflexible thinker.
Studies conducted by behavioral scientists (a group whose principal objective in life is to torment undergraduates) have shown that greater creativity in problem solving is exhibited by those who have experienced life in foreign cultures. In one series of experiments conducted at Indiana University, the mere mention of a location distant from campus served to make undergraduate subjects tasked with listing means of conveyance think more broadly, creatively and inclusively.
In studies conducted by members of the faculties of Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management the European based international business school INSEAD, the ability to solve problems creatively was highly correlated with having lived abroad.
Why should this be so? What does travel have to do with creative thinking? The answer appears to have to do with the act of having negotiated life in another culture. Those who have traveled and lived abroad and have experienced different cultures appear to exhibit greater degrees of cognitive flexibility than those who have not because those who have encountered similar human behaviors under starkly different cultural circumstances. This appears to afford and enhance the open mindedness needed to see that a single idea or action can have different meanings and consequences depending upon cultural context. Similarly, similar or even identical objects can have different uses in different cultural settings.
The development of mental flexibility is a key component of the development of cognitive reserve. By traveling, experiencing new cultures, new mindsets and new uses for old objects and ideas, new mental associations are formed, new cognitive (and perhaps even new neuronal) connections are established and the mental armamentarium against which one may draw in the battle to stay off cognitive decline becomes enhanced and enriched.
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