Students are most creative at lunchtime, study suggests

Students pageLecturers may benefit from scheduling creative activities in the middle of the day, according to a new study which found students' creativity peaked at lunchtime.

Dr Dermot Breslin, Senior Lecturer in Organisational Behaviour in the Sheffield University Management School, conducted a study where students came up with twice as many ideas at midday compared to the start and end of the day.

The research, published in Studies in Higher Education, involved two experiments where 270 business studies undergraduates were divided into groups and given 10 minutes to come up with as many uses as possible for three objects: a blank sheet of A4 paper, a coat hanger and a paper cup.

The research showed students became more creative throughout the morning before peaking around midday. The study also reported a significant ‘post-lunch dip’ effect where student performance fell in the afternoon.

In the paper, Dr Breslin writes: “In our working and educational environments the group is a key vehicle for the creative process, and understanding how this process changes over the course of the working day is of significant importance.

“Research has shown how socialization and cognitive processes can be influenced by the time of day. This paper points to an enhancing effect around the middle of the working day.

“As the group enters this optimal time period, increased alertness, arousal and positive affect, result in a more fluent social interaction, and with this higher creative fluency. The scheduling of creative work and educational activities should thus target this window of creativity.”

Dr Breslin told Times Higher Education that his findings had led him to adjust his timetabling, and that he “definitely sees the effect” of scheduling creative activities for lunchtime, not just in more interaction between students but also in the motivation that they display.