Copying Other People's Stuff Makes You More Creative
Jan 23, 2014 17:50
Originality and creativity are still hailed as being the best, even
though there are countless examples of huge creative breakthroughs that
"borrowed" directly from the creations of others.
from Indiana University found that people make greater creative strides
when they copy others - and when they work in a crowded field, rather
than alone. "We naturally take umbrage when others copy us," says Robert
Goldstone, a professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences at IU
Bloomington. "We don’t [want to] share our salsa recipe or our finger
picking technique. But you may be cheating yourself out of the
opportunity for finding even better solutions."
To put this hypothesis to the test, the IUB team created a video game called Creature League, modeled after popular games such as Virtual Pets or Fantasy Football.
it works: You and your competitor(s) are given a team of four cute
creature icons each (ie. a robot, goldfish, caterpillar, etc.) and a
score. You are also given a common pool of creature icons which you can
swap with any of the creatures on your team. The goal is to get the
highest possible score by assembling the best team of creatures.
The catch: You have no idea which creature pairing gets the most points.
catch: You can see what your competitors are doing and copy then.
Therefore, if another player realizes that a dino-fish-gorilla-robot
combo earns a ton of points, you can build yourself the exact same team
in the next round. Of course, this will prompt your competitor to try
and beat you, so he'll tweak his creature team too. If he succeeds, it's
only logical that you'll copy him again.
The result: Goldstone
found that scores were higher when people had "more imitating choices
than innovating choices." His team also found that you don't only
perform better when you steal other people's work, you perform better
when other people steal from you. "When people imitate, they usually
tweak the solution," says Goldstone. "And sometimes those tweaks result
in an innovation. When that happens, the person who was imitated can go
back and imitate the their competitor’s solution."
noted that his study raises plenty of ethical and practical concerns;
from plagiarism to the large sums that companies spend on R&D, it's
obvious why people want to protect their work. "Competing for the same
market share and a fear of getting ripped off are real," he says. "But
maybe there's too much of a focus on that." More players in the field
not only broadens the market but can lead to increased efficiency all
Goldstone's next version of Creature League will test the
costs and benefits of intellectual property regulations. In the new
scenario, players will be able to patent their creature line-ups and
charge competitors who want to use them.
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