Why the Semi-Nomadic Himba Are So Good at Thinking Outside the Box

“Westerners would afterward say things like ‘Oh, I didn’t think I could do that’ whereas the Himba seemed much more open to trying alternative solutions,” says Sarah Pope. According to Pope this study suggests cognitive set may be less ingrained in some cultures than others than previously thought. She has research plans to figure out why. “One explanation may lie in education,” says Pope. Formal education can train the mind to view problems in a certain kind of way. Without formal education, Himba may be freer to try different approaches. Understanding the relationship between education and creative problem solving could help resolve this question. Another possibility is that different environments mold different ways of thinking. Lifestyles that are less predictable may require greater cognitive flexibility to survive.

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