Will Burns

Unleash Creativity Blog

Scientific studies that help us unleash our most human attribute: creativity.

Creative Challenges Are More Challenging In High Heat And Humidity

Creativity is a challenge. It requires tremendous mental energy to "get up" and solve creative problems. Well, recent research into a very unexpected category might reveal that heat and humidity are like kryptonite to the creative process. The category?

Lottery tickets.

Too hot for scratch tickets. 

Amar Cheema and Vanessa Patrick at the Universities of Virginia and Houston studied the sales of lottery tickets - both regular old lottery tickets and scratch tickets - in St. Louis, Missouri for a year. They then correlated the sales of both against heat and humidity.

Turns out, the sales of lottery tickets were unaffected by temperature whereas sales of scratch tickets fell by $594 with every degree of temperature increase. The researchers theorize that lottery tickets require zero thought, so there's no real challenge there. Whereas scratch tickets require several decisions to be made.

In short, scratch tickets are more challenging and, so, sales go down in the heat.

That's scratch tickets. Just imagine what heat does to the ultimate human challenge, creativity.

Too hot and humid for anything.

Heat is one factor. Turns out if you add humidity to your creative process it's like eating kryptonite with a spoon.

Other studies (in Canada, Taiwan, Australia and the UK) have shown that higher humidity makes us feel less energy, gloomier and more cynical.

So when we've got both heat and humidity, forget coming up with that new tag line.

For steamy hot ideas, cool off.

It's summer and I don't know about you, but it seems like a hotter summer than usual. And extra humid. The key to maximize your creativity in the summer months, then, is to stay cool. Not Fonzie cool, which you can't help, but actual cool. 

Honestly, just being aware of the negative effects of heat and humidity on creativity will help you dodge its effects. But here's an article from The Boston Globe, "7 tips for staying cool in this horrible heat" that may help some, though mostly intuitive stuff.

To me, it's not complicated. The antidote to heatwave-kryptonite is: hydrate, move slow, air conditioning.

Take that, heat and humidity.