See Inside July / August 2011

Can I Help You? Solving a Problem Is Easier When It Belongs to Someone Else

Need to solve a tough problem? A study published online February 11 in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggests you are more likely to succeed if you solve it on another person’s be­half. Psychologists asked 137 students to picture either themselves or a stranger stuck in a tower and to think of a way to escape using only a rope that did not reach the ground. Of the students who imagined a stranger in the tower, 66 percent found the solution—divide the rope lengthwise and tie the pieces together—compared with 48 percent of those who pictured themselves in the tower. Co-author Evan Polman of New York University says one implication is that if we imagine that our problems belong to someone else, we might find better solutions.

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