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It was an appealing and apparently convincing message.Indeed, the concept enjoyed such strong popularity and intuitive appeal that no one bothered to check the facts.No one, that is, before two different research teams—Clarke Burnham with Kenneth Davis, and Joseph Alba with Robert Weisberg—ran another experiment using the same puzzle but a different research procedure.Both teams followed the same protocol of dividing participants into two groups.There seemed to be no end to the insights that could be offered under the banner of thinking outside the box.
In other words, the difference could easily be due to what statisticians call sampling error.
In other words, the “trick” was revealed in advance.
Would you like to guess the percentage of the participants in the second group who solved the puzzle correctly?
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).