The Power of Ambiguity

Have you ever looked at a traffic accident and asked yourself, “How did that happen?”

The other night, I was playing pool and sunk a ball that I didn’t expect to sink – in fact, it was so surprising that I asked myself, “How did I do that?!” (Actually, I think it was a little more expressive than that simple phrase… but it was a very cool shot!)

But it’s even more obvious when I look at a website that I like. Sometimes, I’ve been known to look at the source code to try to figure out how they did that.

And the cool thing is that when you ask that question, you get smarter.

Maybe you’ll actually figure out an answer, maybe not. I still have no idea how I sunk that ball in the corner pocket at the other end. But the experience of being exposed to uncertainty – The Power of Ambiguity – helps you get smarter.

A recent study published in Psychological Science had people look at the surreal work of author Kafka and film director David Lynch, and found that afterwards, people were better at seeing subtle patterns. Read more about this in Science Daily or the NYTimes.

This is another great reason to visit the art gallery. Another good reason to watch art house movies. And a great excuse for me to continue staring at the complex building sites around here.

Experience the surreal. Have a look around. And when you see something strange, or someone does something unexpected, be grateful – it’s an opportunity to make you smarter.

First published on – and thanks Kellie for tipping me off to this 🙂