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This is Hidden Brain, I'm Shankar Vedantam. In 2011, Richard Freeman was working on a project. He was studying the way groups of people work together, specifically how scientists work together.
Richard, who's a Harvard economics professor, noticed something intriguing. Scientists in the United States seemed to stick to their own kind.
You'd see Chinese folk concentrated in one lab, Indian folk concentrated in another lab, Europeans of different groups associating more with their compatriots.
This was not surprising. You see this kind of clustering in lots of workplaces, but Russia thought science ought to be different.
In general, people who are more alike are likely to think more alike.
And one of the things that gives a kick to science and scientific productivity is that you get people with somewhat different views, different perspectives coming together.
This assertion has long been debated. Some people say teams with lots of different perspectives come up with better ideas. Others say no. When a group has lots of different views, this can produce conflict gridlock. So which is it? Russia decided to put the question to the test, the scientists who collaborate with others from the same group produce better science or worse science than scientists who have a wide network of collaborators.
To find out, Richard looked at one of the most important signals of scientific success research publications. He surveyed vast numbers of articles and papers, and he found that a large number of these papers co-authors shared a common ethnicity, no surprise. But then he went further. There's a very powerful way to judge the quality of scientific papers. The more groundbreaking a paper, the more likely it is to be cited by researchers writing other papers. Citations, in other words, are a marker of importance.
We asked, Will, are the papers done by people who are more likely to say, oh, those papers are? Do they get more attention that have more citations? Do they appear in journals that are greater prestige?
The answer was no.
If you write a paper all largely with people of your own group, it's likely the paper gets less citations than if you write it with a broader group of people. Papers that got the most citations, the most prestige, were often written by a mix of people with different backgrounds.
It is much better to have people working in collaborating when they're across different laboratories, across different parts of the US between countries, rather than people only working in the same group.
The findings are true no matter which ethnic groups you looked at.
This is a result that goes across all the groups. So it's it's not specific. Like Chinese guys write a paper together, their paper gets less citations and less impact. The same thing is true of native born Anglo Americans.
Do that, in other words, that you're actually at a disadvantage if you are surrounded by people of your own group in some ways, regardless of what that group is. Yes.
And I think the key thing is to get more ideas sort of linked together so they can spawn better ideas as opposed to us all working on the same in the same way. We're going to explore a single idea today that builds upon research, finding and science, we look at this ideas, applications and the arts and fashion. And in business, it's about the strange connection between the kind of ideas we dream up and the kind of people who surround us.
Diversity and creativity. This week on Hidden Brain. This message comes from NPR sponsor Verbal Summer is here and vacation is just a drive away search. Thousands of nearby vacation rentals on Verber to find your family, a private home all to yourselves, where you can spread out, chill out and feel that vacation feeling again together. Book the home that makes the vacation. Download the Vershbow app. That's Vario. In the far north west of Spain is a place of farms and forests and ocean.
Goliatha, It's a region of rugged coastlines, hardest TEUs and the Galician bagpipe.
I come from old N.C., which is one of the four provinces of Galizia.
This is Cristina Pato. She's a bagpipe player. When you grew up in Galicia. You grew up hearing music everywhere. Hearing music in her hearing music in a square, celebrating the festivities of the day or weddings or even birthdays. I mean, when you were in Galicia, you pretty much can hear the bagpipes almost everywhere. Christine has been playing the bagpipes since she was a child, she grew up in a musical household. Her father was an accordion player.
Her three older sisters all played the bagpipes.
And I just wanted to be whatever my sisters were doing. So they began with the bagpipes when I was four years old.
So I just did it. The girls were talented. By the time she was 10, Christina and her sister Raquel would travel to villages to play at festivals.
My mother will give us the coalition dresses and then we will start walking in those streets. And the sound of the bagpipes at 8am is something that everybody can not only here but also recognize. My sister and I will be just waiting for them to come out, play a little, Monita, which is the California National Band, and people are going to start dancing and. As she grew older, Kristina began to experiment with her bagpipes. She started to play music that wasn't embedded in the folkloric tradition.
She started touring with bands at 18.
She released her first solo album. The more Krystyna stretched, the better she got. By the time her second album was released two years later, she dyed her hair bright green and acquired a nickname, The Jimi Hendrix of the bagpipes. For some traditionalists, Christina was stepping over a line in Galatea, the bagpipes remain deeply embedded in tradition, but improvisation came naturally to her. She needed to make her own kind of music.
I was trying to just tell people this is what I am and and I is not like I don't care about what you think about what I do with my instrument, but there is something about what I do with my instrument that keeps me going.
By the time she was a young adult, Christina had to make a choice. It seemed to her like the bagpipes could only take her so far.
Christina had also been trained in classical piano in her mid 20s. She decided to leave Spain and go to the United States. She would pursue a mainstream musical career with the piano. And I move here, I didn't tell anybody around me when I went to Rutgers University to get my doctorate, but I have another life. Christina kept her two lives separate. One side of her was a diligent classical music student.
The other was still a green had bagpipe player from Khalifa. One day in her second semester, a professor asked for help in translating a song.
So I get this call from the professor of the apocalypse movement and she says, I have a song in here which is in a language that I believe is closer to Spanish. So I was wondering if you could be the pianist for the singer and also the coach, the vocal coach for diction. And when I see this car, it was lower this that which is literally colorless Moon Ingleton. And this was a poem by the most amazing collegium poet of all times, Vasilyeva Castro, a female writer of the end of the 19th century, and this composer who, to be honest, I didn't know anything about him.
This composer actually has chosen that poem to to create music around it.
That composer, it turns out, was celebrated. An Argentinean named Oswaldo Golijov, she met him at rehearsal.
We started talking about Polizia. Think he got excited?
Then I told him, well, I actually play the other the other most important thing about Galizia and which is legality and bagpipe. And then his eyes opened even wider. Fast forward six months.
Christina got a call, it was Oswaldo.
He says, Why don't you and your husband come to Lenox, Massachusetts? I'm here with some friends. Bring your back by and yeah, just come and have fun with us.
So they did. We arrived in Tanglewood. Actually, that's where they were meeting. We see us, although we started talking and he says, well, tonight we are having like a gathering in the place where we are staying in Lenox. And I was hoping for you just to show them your instrument. Talk a little bit about your tradition, your music, what you do, and I'm sure they will love it. So there I was like, playmate's to meet with a bunch of strangers that I the only person I could recognize physically it was yo, yo, yo, yo, yo, yo.
Yo-Yo Ma, the cellist, the most renowned and famous cellist in the world. What Christina didn't realize was that she'd stumbled into a room filled with master musicians from around the world. They were part of a group created by Yo-Yo Ma. It's a collective known as the Silk Road Ensemble, and it brings together musicians from different cultures and different traditions.
I kind of was lucky that that night I didn't even know who I was playing for, because if I did, I probably would not have felt so free in the idea of what are these people, what am I doing in front of all of them?
I began playing. They started asking questions. I got excited. And then I asked them to join and play. And then we ended up that evening all dancing comunidad that I coached them how to dance.
And that moment really changed my life in every possible direction. And in that moment I didn't even realize how much that moment was going to mean for the rest of my life. It was a turning point. Cristina joined the Silk Road Ensemble, she embraced the vision for the collective, a vision that began with a simple question what could happen when two strangers meet?
What could happen when strangers meet? This is the question Yo-Yo Ma had asked what could musicians from many different cultures create when they come together? It turns out something extraordinarily beautiful. Yo-Yo Ma describes the work of the collective as something he calls the edge effect. Christina says it's an idea that stuck with her. The fact is the point in which to eco-systems meat like the forest and the savannah and apparently inequality in these edge effect is where the most in your life forms are created.
And somehow Silkroad is some sort of his recreation of this edge effect. For Christina, working in that zone where new life forms emerge, that changed the way she saw music mogul.
She began to question why Christina, the bagpipe player, and Christina, the classical pianist, had to live in different worlds. It's true, the music was different, the traditions were different. Even the audiences seemed different. But so what all of us are having working with children. I found the connections between the two worlds I've been living all my life, that we're not even connected in my hometown. And you have to understand also that ignorance is what I come from the Bhaktapur School and the Conservatory for Classical Music, where two buildings next to each other, these back my school had in a city of 100000 people who had more than 10000 somehow involved with the Bhaktapur school.
And I could count with the fingers of my hands, the people that could actually go to both to get trained in classical music, but also got trained as a bagpiper.
Christina says that what drew her was the possibility for connections and conversations between different musical forms in Silk Road. You also have to keep going in meeting new strangers, meeting new communities, meeting communities of people that you have never imagined of working with, and maybe putting together new instruments that you never think they will work together like a bagpipe and a Japanese shakuhachi. Somehow, to me, Silk Road is the metaphor of the 21st century society, or at least to the wish I have for the 21st century society.
The Silk Road musicians have discovered in music what Richard Freeman discovered in science. The interesting stuff happens when people from different groups come together, work together, collide. When we come back, we'll take a look at the science that explains why diversity and creativity often go hand in hand. Stay with us. Support for NPR and the following message come from our sponsor, the House of Roll, maker of Shor's Sync's director of operations, Andy Hampson, says their master craftsmen are proud to put their name on every cent they make.
Our aim is to create the finest handcrafted sinks in the world. We reckon it takes between two and five years to train somebody to properly finish our things. You need to be very dexterous. You need to have an eye for detail. You really need to care and have a passion for what you're producing. You know, it's something that we don't use robots for. We don't use machines for. As each craftsman finishes this thing, he's got to stamp the stamp is his name, and he places that on the back of the sink or underneath the base of the sink.
And that's our craftsman. Say this syncs up to show us quality. I'm happy that it meets my expectations and I want to put my name to it to learn more.
Visit House of Royal Dotcom. House of our o h. L Dotcom. Hi, Adam, I'm Shankar, nice to meet. Not long ago, when I was in New York, I stopped by the apartment of social psychologist Adam Galinsky when my producer Jenny Schmid and I got there, Adam and his family were waiting for us at the front door.
This is Jack. Hi again. Adam lives with his wife, Gina Lyon, his two young sons, Asha and Aiden, and his mother in law, Vicky Olaya. Jenny, as we walked into the apartment. Adam made a quick request. Would you mind taking off your shoes?
We slipped off our boots and Adam and Jen pointed to a selection of house shoes they kept under a bench here, some slippers, if you like, OK, or police or whatever.
By the way, Adam admits that having a shoe free house wasn't something he'd done growing up.
I never taking my shoes off in my own house before meeting, you know, dating Jan. And, you know, Jen even doesn't want us to put our clothes on outside, clothes on sitting on the bed. So I really integrate this. Like, I go to hotels now and I take off my pants before sitting on the bed.
Jen has strong ideas about keeping the inside of a home separate from the outside world all the time. Adam has made those ideas his own.
I think that, you know, that's really made me think about space in a totally different way and sort of how how people construct their worlds and their interior environments. And, you know, I have a much better interior design now in my house than I ever had when I was a single.
Adam grew up in a secular Jewish family in North Carolina. Jen grew up in Connecticut with parents who had emigrated from the Philippines. They'd held on to their Filipino culture. Part of that culture includes a deep respect for the home, a respect they passed on to Gen Gen intown, passed on that cultural belief to Adam.
I still actually own my apartment in Chicago and I went back to recently and like basically what all this was like. You know, I just I was just never attentive to all the features of a space that that someone who really cares about that and design and how things fit together. And I think that, yeah, the bedroom now is like it does feel a little bit more like a sanctuary like than, you know, it's like it's almost like you're stepping across, you know, this into this different portal, if you will.
John is also adopted some of Adam's values.
Adam has taught me through his Jewish tradition about embracing, opening up of feelings through labeling, identifying feelings. I tend to mute those things or don't like real conflict. So. Now, you might be asking, what's the big deal, any time a couple gets together, they plan their lives, embrace some things, let go of others. But here's the difference. When people from different countries or cultures come together, it seems to affect their creativity. Adam has studied this topic, we caught up for a longer chat when Jen and the kids weren't around, I wanted to know how he'd gotten interested in the link between diversity and creativity.
Adam says it started long ago when he was in high school before leaving for a semester abroad.
He'd attended a mandatory orientation.
And I still remember to this day they said, look, summer, you're going to go to China. And in China, it is a sign of respect if you leave food on your plate because it says that you got enough to eat. But in Indonesia, where I was going, it's a sign of disrespect to leave food on your plate because it basically says the food wasn't very good. And so that was sort of Eye-Opening transformational experience for me to recognize the same object.
Fruit on a plate could have very different meanings and have very different implications depending on the culture.
The same thing means different things, depending on your background and perspective. It made Adam wonder how different cultures can help us see the world differently and spark creativity and innovation. Years later, he decided to explore these ideas in a research project.
The whole project is a great story because it's a good example of both scientific discovery and scientific collaboration.
Adam and some colleagues tracked a group of students at a business school. The researchers hypothesized that the students who showed the most creativity at the end of their school year would also be those who'd had the most interactions with people from different countries.
They collected a vast amount of data, crunched the results they were about to publish when another group of researchers had actually even a better design than we did and scooped our idea and published the paper, that should have been the end of it.
Their goal had been to publish and they'd gotten beat. So even though they had a lot of data, they put it all away and moved on.
A couple of years later, I had a first year doctoral student, Jackson Lu, and I said, hey, we have this all data we can't publish in a great journal because someone already scooped us on it, but we could publish it as a replication. Some are good. Why don't you go through the data?
What happened next might be an example of the phenomenon. Richard Freeman noticed that it helps a research project to have scientists from different ethnicities. Jackson Liu saw something exciting and Adam's data that Adam himself had overlooked.
And I said, What's that? And he said, I found this finding that people who had dated someone from another culture became more creative during their business school career. But those who just had friends from another culture didn't seem to become more creative. So there's something unique and wonderful about intercultural romantic relationships.
Jackson's enthusiasm at Adam and his colleagues set up. They realized they may have stumbled on something important. Why would dating someone from another culture spur creativity? Why would casual friendships not work the same way? So we started thinking again about this idea of deep or the depth and the closeness of those intercultural connections might make a difference.
They designed an experiment to test whether the finding was real. This time they reached out only to students who had both dated someone from a different country and dated someone from their own country. The students were then randomly split into two groups.
In one condition. We'll ask them to recall their experience they had with their dating someone from their own culture and just describe that experience. Now, in the other condition, we said recall a time when you dated about one of your relationships, someone from another culture. What was that experience like?
Afterwards, the researchers asked the students to reflect on how much they learned about their own and the other culture. And then they were given a test for creativity.
If there was no connection between intercultural romance and creativity, asking the students to reflect on different kinds of encounters should have made no difference. But that's not what the research has found.
We found that there was a boost in temporary creativity just by reflecting on the intercultural relationship, and that was really driven by the fact that people felt that they had learned more about another culture and that sort of cultural learning then led that reflection and that cultural learning led to increased creativity. Psychology research out of Tufts University has found something similar.
When you introduced racial diversity into a group, all the people in the group began to broaden the scope of their thinking and to explore more options. Now, creativity can be difficult to measure, but scientists have devised ways of doing it.
Typically, they analyze what they call divergent thinking and convergent thinking and convergent creativity.
Tasks are ones in which there's a single right answer. And one of the most famous examples of a single right answer that. We didn't actually use in this particular project, but have used in many of our other studies is the Duncker candle problem and the Duncker candle problem. You ask people to you give them a candle, a box of tax and a book of matches and you tell them affix the candle to the wall in such a way that the candle, when lit, doesn't drip wax onto the wall, table or floor.
Adam says that when he tried this with a group of smart undergrads at Princeton, only a small percentage of the students solved the problem within 15 minutes. The reason is that the test requires you to think about familiar objects in a new way.
A box of tax can be a repository for tax, but can also be a stand. And the solution. As you dump out all the tax out of the box, you tack the box to the wall and then you put the candle inside. Divergent tasks.
Don't ask for a single right answer. They require you to produce lots of different ideas.
In our study, we ask people at time one when we first measure their creativity to generate as many creative uses as they can for a brick. And then at time two, when they graduated from business school, we asked them to think about as many creative uses they could for a box. And then you can code these uses for the number of uses they come up with. But you can also code them for the number of different categories they come up with.
So for Brick, so it might say, oh, it could be used as a piece of furniture. So that's one category or it could be used as the weapon. You could throw it at someone that's another category, or it could be used as part of a house. That's another category.
Again, generating lots of good ideas is a sign of a creative brain. In the study of business school students, Adam and his colleagues gave the volunteers one final task.
It's called the Remote Associates Test, where you give people three words and then you ask them basically to find the one word that connects them. And one of the classic examples that people give is you're given these three words manner round and tense and you got to come up the one word that connects all three of them. And in this case, the answer is table y.
You can have table manners, you can have round tables and you can have table tennis.
What Adam and his colleagues found is that in every one of these tests, the group of volunteers randomly selected to reflect on their experience dating someone from another country outperform those asked to reflect on their experience dating someone from their own country.
They increased in their flexibility and novelty of their ideas. And basically in our final data, what we did is we basically created a single composite creativity score, which really collapsed across all these. But the same effect actually emerges on each of the individual problems, which shows how robust and powerful the effect was.
The findings were intriguing. The researchers decided to go a step further. They wanted to know if the results would hold up in the real world. They were wondering how to do that when one day Adam went to a presentation given by his colleague Dan Wong.
And he is presenting this great, amazing data set of everyone who had a J1 visa to visit the U.S. and he was able to survey them.
J1 visas allow people to work in the United States for a defined period of time, usually between three months and two years. At any given time, there are about 300000 J1 visa holders. So that means that we have tons of people who have come to the U.S. for a relatively short period of time. But, you know, up to 24 months, almost two years, and then return back to their home country.
After the talk, Adam went up to dad and asked him if, by any chance, he had any data on cross-cultural contact and the depth of those connections.
He said, I think I do. It turned out Dan had asked former J1 visa holders this question.
Please report the frequency of contact that you have with your American friends since you have returned to your home country.
The survey also asked a form visa holders what kind of work they'd been doing since returning home.
Adama's down to take a look at his data and see if there was a correlation between those who had maintained the closest contact with their American friends and whether they became an entrepreneur when they got home and founded their own company and whether they had created new practices in their company when they got home.
Indeed, there was, he said. Oh, my God, the data are exactly as you would have predicted. And that was really the icing on the cake of this paper. You know, we'd already had this great data from laboratory based paper and pencil creativity measures. But now we have the. More of our hypothesis that the depth of intercultural relationships, the frequency with which they had contact, predicts these are real world consequential creativity measures the probability that they became an entrepreneur and started their own business and how much they changed and transformed and innovated in their own companies.
This time, Adam and his colleagues did not get scooped. They got published.
Adam says he sees more and more links between creativity and cultural diversity.
You better work in one of his favorite projects. He looked at fashion lines presented by major fashion houses over 21 seasons Milan, Paris, London and New York.
He found that there appeared to be a connection between creativity and the time that fashion creators had spent immersed in a different culture.
And what we found was something really interesting, which is that the amount of time that the creative director had worked abroad predicted their entire fashion line creativity, but not the number of countries that they worked abroad that didn't have near as much of an impact as the amount of time that they worked abroad.
All these examples have a common thread. The fashion designers look a lot like the students at business school who dated someone from another country. The students look a lot like the scientists who spend time collaborating with partners from different ethnicities. The musicians who work with someone from a different tradition has something in common with the entrepreneurs who make broad connections and spend time maintaining them. What all these cross-cultural relationships have is depth. There's something about deeply understanding and learning about another culture that's transformative.
We can get that from living abroad. We can get that from dating someone from another culture. We could even get it from traveling, but only if we really learned and understood and embraced and adapted to that other culture why we were traveling abroad. And so the I think the big scientific conclusion that is very robust is, is that it's about really, truly, deeply understanding. Another culture is the key to enhancing your own creativity.
Adam Galinsky and his wife Jen say they want their children to see the world in this expansive way. And Adam says the beauty of his research is that it suggests the benefits of broad collaboration are within easy reach, especially in the United States.
You don't have to go abroad to get some of the creativity benefits of having that intercultural contact. You can get that same benefit here in the United States by embracing, engaging with people from other cultures. But again, there's the catch. You can't just be superficial. You've got to more deeply connect to people from other cultures to have that transformational impact in that experience.
You could argue there are limitations and some of the examples we've discussed today, it's possible that scientists who collaborate with diverse teams or musicians who team up with performers from other traditions, these people might just be risk takers. In other words, it's not the musical collaborations that make you more creative. It's just having an open outlook. It's very difficult to explore questions like this scientifically. We can't conduct experiments where we dictate who people date or who scientists should collaborate with.
But I would argue that even in studies where you can't prove cause and effect, you can still see the effects that diversity has on creativity. And this is not just at the level of individuals, it's at the level of communities, even nations. Consider this the United States, a country that accounts for about five percent of the world's population, has won about 60 percent of all the Nobel Prizes ever awarded.
From the motor car and the airplane to Facebook and Google, from the telephone and the Internet to Hollywood and Wall Street, scientists, entrepreneurs and entertainers from the United States have powerfully shaped the world in which we live.
Could some of this outsized creativity have to do with the extraordinary diversity of America, the waves of immigrants who arrived here over the centuries?
I'd like to think the answer is yes.
Today's episode was produced by Jenny Schmitt and Path Perthshire and edited by Tara Boyle, our team includes Raina Cohen, Thomas Lue, Laura Querelle and Katrina. The song you're listening to right now is Royo, it's composed by Christina Pado and Kujira Hamasaki, it blends the Japanese shakuhachi with a Galician bagpipe. Thanks to the team at WNYC Soundcheck for sharing this recording with us. This week, our unsung hero is Lynette Clemetson. Lynette is currently director of the Knight Wallace Fellowships Program for journalists.
But before that, she was a beloved colleague here at NPR.
She believes with every bone in her body in the link between diversity and creativity. Lynette was an early and ardent supporter of hidden brain. We literally would not exist without her. In fact, I can't believe we haven't previously called her out as an unsung hero. Of course, that is precisely what makes her an unsung hero. If you like today's show, please share it with one friend who comes from a different cultural background. Tell us about your conversation on Facebook and Twitter.
I'm Shankar Vedantam and this is NPR. A Minneapolis business owners daughter is called out publicly for racist antiblack tweets, fighting to save his business and trying to make amends. He calls on a prominent black Muslim leader for help. He's an Arab Muslim. And I said here to then tell me what to do to hear what happens next. Listen to Code Switch from NPR.