Experiencing the impossible and creativity: A targeted literature review

Richard Wiseman*, Caroline Watt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Previous work suggests that unexpected and surprising experiences (e.g., living in another culture or looking at surreal images) promotes creative thinking. This targeted literature review examines whether the inherent cognitive disruption associated with experiencing the seemingly impossible has a similar effect. Correlational and experimental research across six domains (entertainment magic, fantasy play, virtual reality and computer gaming, dreaming, science fiction/fantasy, and anomalous experiences) provided consistent support for the hypothesis. In addition, anecdotal evidence illustrated the possible impact that the creative output associated with each of these areas may have had on technology, science, and the arts. It is argued that impossible experiences are an important driver of creative thinking, thus accounting for reports of such experiences across the lifespan and throughout history. The theoretical and practical implications of this work are discussed, along with recommendations for future research.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13755
JournalPeerJ – the Journal of Life & Environmental Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jul 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • magic
  • impossible
  • dreaming
  • science fiction
  • paranormal
  • conjuring
  • play


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