Wall Street Journal – Think Apple: It Boosts Creativity

Think Apple: It Boosts Creativity
Posted by Ben Worthen

You don’t need to be a Mac owner to be a cutting-edge hipster. Turns out just thinking about Apple can make you more creative.

Subconsciously seeing this will make you more creative
That’s according to researchers at Duke University and the University of Waterloo, who found that exposing people to a brand’s logo for 30 milliseconds will make them behave in ways associated with that brand. And in Apple’s case that means more creatively, Gavan Fitzsimons, one of the Duke professors who conducted the study, tells the Business Technology Blog. The study will be published in the April issue of the Journal of Consumer Research.

Scientists have long debated whether subliminal messages, the idea that subconscious exposure can shape behavior, really work. In recent years, the consensus opinion has tended towards no. But most studies measured if subliminal messages caused people to buy products. Fitzsimons and his colleagues wondered if the exposure resulted in behavioral changes that don’t show up on the balance sheet.

To find out, they exposed subjects to imperceptible images of brand logos for Apple and IBM (as well as logos for other non-tech companies). Surveys found that people felt similarly about the two companies in every way except creativity, where Apple came out ahead, and competence, which was IBM’s perceived strength. After exposing them to the brands, the researchers asked subjects to describe as many uses for a brick as they could.

Most people mentioned a door stop or a paperweight. “But the subjects who had seen Apple’s logo also came up with uses like tying it around my roommate’s foot and throwing him in a deep pond,” Fitzsimons tells us. The Apple-primed subjects averaged 30% more answers and independent reviewers also deemed their answers as more creative. It’s harder to measure competence, but Fitzsimons says that IBM-primed subjects had strikingly uniform answers.

Does this mean that businesses wanting to inspire creativity or competence in a handful of areas should buy Macs or IBM equipment for their offices? (IBM sold its PC division to Lenovo while the study was in progress.) Fitzsimons isn’t ready to go that far: The key to shaping behavior is unconsciously planting the brand image.

Nonetheless, Fitzsimons replaced his Thinkpad with a Mac three months ago. “I figure I’ll be walking by it everyday and sometimes I’ll see it without thinking,” he tells us. “I felt like if I really believe this stuff, I should put my money where my mouth is.”

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