You walk into a room where you find a table pushed against the back wall with three things on it: a book of matches, a box of tacks, and a candle.
Above the table is a corkboard. Your instructions are to affix the candle to the corkboard in such a way that when you light the candle, no wax will drip onto the table or floor beneath it. You have 10 minutes to complete the problem.
Can you solve it?
This a famous scenario known as the Candle Problem that was used in a study understanding the impact humor has on creative problem solving.
As you may have guessed, humor and creativity go together like two Ps in a pod
I discovered this through experience, but psychologists figured it out… however psychologists figure stuff out. Research suggests that humor and creativity go together because, in both, you’re tying things together in a new way, seeing new connections. In fact, humor is highly correlated with both creativity and intelligence.
The link between humor and creativity isn’t new—studies dating back to the 1950s have documented their close relationship. What is new is understanding why the two go together: a dose of humor releases the chemical serotonin in your brain, which improves focus, increases objectivity and improves overall brainpower.
The chemical can be powerful. Studies have shown that simply watching comedy films can improve creative problem solving skills. In one study, students were split into groups. One of the groups watched a humorous film, one watched a neutral film and one watched no film at all. They were then asked to complete a task that involved using problem-solving skills.
The number of subjects who watched the humor film and successfully completed the task was 55% more than the neutral film group and 62% more than the group that watched no film at all. Said differently, the subjects who watched the humor film were nearly 4x more likely to solve the problem.
Can you guess what the task was? The Candle Problem.