Why The Semi-Nomadic Himba Are So Good At Thinking Outside The Box

Researchers came up with a test to see if people are flexible thinkers. And they gave it to Westerners and to Himba people in Namibia. The results might surprise you.
Source: Leigh Wells/Getty Images

Sarah Pope drives to work every day. It takes the cognitive neuroscientist 10 minutes to get to her lab at the University of Texas at Austin, and 10 minutes to get back home. She thought it was the fastest route, until one day a roadblock forced her to take a back road, which cut her commute time in half.

Why didn't she try the better route earlier? She says it's an example of a tendency to stick to the familiar way of solving a problem. Psychologists call it "cognitive set." Psychologists who are interested in the opposite kind of mindset – flexible thinking – have confirmed this bias toward the familiar in experiment after experiment.

But in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology earlier this year challenges this dogma by testing the flexible thinking of non-Western cultures – in this case, the semi-nomadic Himba people of Namibia.

Citiți o mostră, înregistrați-vă pentru a citi în continuare.

Mai multe de la NPR

NPR2 min cititeSociety
New York City Hospitals Struggle To Get Virus Testing Online Amid Patient Surge
On-site testing was delayed for weeks at a hospital in Brooklyn that has been designated COVID-only. Rapid on-site testing can help hospitals prevent the virus from spreading inside their facilities.
NPR4 min citite
NPR Music's Top 20 Songs Of March
Dua Lipa gave us a disco bop, Code Orange glitched its way through an industrial-metal anthem and Kelsea Ballerini offered a thoughtful country ballad about a divided America.
NPR3 min citite
The Case For More Federal Action To Combat COVID-19
Editor's note: This is an excerpt of Planet Money's newsletter. You can sign up here. We just got off the phone with Paul Romer, the NYU economist who won a Nobel Prize in 2018 for his research on economic growth. We thought it might be a good time t