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The world we live in is an interconnected, Global one. Not only are far more people exposed to different cultures than ever before within their own geographical areas, they are also more likely to encounter people from other countries with significantly different cultural backgrounds in their everyday lives — for work or personal reasons, in person or on the internet. How does being exposed to so much diversity influence our brains?
Exposure To Different Cultures Makes You More Creative
Creativity is one of the most valued attributes in employees, friends, and spouses alike. It doesn't apply only to fields such as art and music — more generally, creativity can be described as the ability to reach novel and innovative solutions, to think out of the box. While some people have the impression that a person is either creative or not, that simply isn't true. The brain changes with exposure to new stimuli, something that is known as neuroplasticity. One of the optimal ways to gain access to new stimuli has been found to be exposure to different cultures, specifically in the form of spending time in other countries.
Adam Galinsky, a professor at Columbia Business School who has studied the link between international travel and creativity extensively, says: "Foreign experiences increase both cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought, the ability to make deep connections between disparate forms." In a study of 270 creative directors of fashion houses, Galinsky discovered that those houses whose creative directors had lived in other countries produced more creative fashion than those who had not.
Why does living in other countries make you more creative? Experiencing more than one culture offers exposure to novel ideas and traditions. It frequently forces people to struggle with new languages and communication barriers, leading them to have to employ more creative ways to get their points across. Since people approach both interpersonal and workplace problems differently depending on their cultural context, living abroad can also lead you to develop the tendency to explore the issues you encounter from more than one point of view. Pretty amazing, isn't it?
Exposure To Multiculturalism Makes You A Better Face Reader
By now, it has been pretty well established that verbal communication makes up only a small part of the way in which we interpret other people's intentions. Some even go as far as to say that body language — of which facial expressions are a crucial element — make up 55 percent of the communication we engage in.
Another study, led by psychology professor Paula Niedenthal from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, found that people living in diverse areas, particularly areas in which not all people shared a common language, were better able to interpret the facial expressions of their conversational partners. Not only that, they were also found to be more adept at figuring out what other people are feeling.
While the meaning of physical gestures may change from country to country, facial expressions are constant throughout the human species. Being able to accurately "read" other people even in the absence of meaningful verbal communication can confer immense benefits, from being able to make friends, to finding a partner, and avoiding dangerous situations.
Brazil, Canada, Australia, Uruguay and the United States are among the most diverse countries out there. Even if you've never lived abroad, living in one of these places offers you the benefit of multiculturalism.