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It was an appealing and apparently convincing message.

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

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

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Even though they weren’t instructed to restrain themselves from considering such a solution, they were unable to “see” the white space beyond the square’s boundaries.Only 20 percent managed to break out of the illusory confinement and continue their lines in the white space surrounding the dots.In the 1970s, however, very few were even aware of its existence, even though it had been around for almost a century.If you have tried solving this puzzle, you can confirm that your first attempts usually involve sketching lines inside the imaginary square.The first group was given the same instructions as the participants in Guilford’s experiment.

The second group was told that the solution required the lines to be drawn outside the imaginary box bordering the dot array.Most people assume that 60 percent to 90 percent of the group given the clue would solve the puzzle easily. What’s more, in statistical terms, this 5 percent improvement over the subjects of Guilford’s original study is insignificant.In other words, the difference could easily be due to what statisticians call sampling error.Yet participants’ performance was not improved even when they were given specific instructions to do so.That is, direct and explicit instructions to think outside the box did not help.There seemed to be no end to the insights that could be offered under the banner of thinking outside the box.