In previous studies, meditation training has been shown to enhance some cognitive processes, such as the allocation of attentional resources (Brown et al., 1984a,b; Slagter et al., 2007). Less clear is the connection between meditation and creativity, (see Horan, 2009, for a review).
This study investigated the influences of two meditative techniques on the two main ingredients of creativity: divergent and convergent styles of thinking.
Cognitive psychologist Lorenza Colzato and her fellow researchers at Leiden University specifically looked at Open Monitoring (OM) and Focused Attention (FA) meditation for the study. In OM meditation, the individual is receptive to all the thoughts and sensations experienced without focusing attention on any particular concept or object. In FA meditation, the individual focuses on a particular thought or object.
In the end, the study found that:
“First, OM meditation induces a control state that promotes divergent thinking, a style of thinking that allows many new ideas of being generated. Second, FA meditation does not sustain convergent thinking, the process of generating one possible solution to a particular problem….
We suggest that this kind of practice reduces the degree of top-down control and local competition and, thus, leads to a broader distribution of potential resources.
Apparently, OM practice restructures cognitive processing to a degree that is robust and general enough to affect performance in another, logically unrelated task. We suggest that this kind of practice reduces the degree of top-down control and local competition and, thus, leads to a broader distribution of potential resources. This establishes, or biases the individual toward a cognitive-control state that is less focused and “exclusive,” which facilitates jumping from one thought to another – as required in divergent thinking. This consideration fits with the observation of Slagter et al. (2007) that OM meditation leads to better performance in a distributed-attention task and reinforces the view that meditation practice can have a lasting and generalizable impact on human cognition (Lutz et al., 2008).”
Click here to read the abstract.