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At the first stages, all the participants in Guilford’s original study censored their own thinking by limiting the possible solutions to those within the imaginary square (even those who eventually solved the puzzle).

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Indeed, the concept enjoyed such strong popularity and intuitive appeal that no one bothered to check the facts.

No one, that is, before two different research teams—Clarke Burnham with Kenneth Davis, and Joseph Alba with Robert Weisberg—ran another experiment using the same puzzle but a different research procedure.

Management consultants in the 1970s and 1980s even used this puzzle when making sales pitches to prospective clients.

Because the solution is, in hindsight, deceptively simple, clients tended to admit they should have thought of it themselves.

Guilford was one of the first academic researchers who dared to conduct a study of creativity.

He challenged research subjects to connect all nine dots using just four straight lines without lifting their pencils from the page.

Solving this problem requires people to literally think outside the box.

Yet participants’ performance was not improved even when they were given specific instructions to do so.

Today many people are familiar with this puzzle and its solution.

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