Floating for Creativity & Cognitive Performance

Float REST Research

In 1987, the University of British Columbia performed a research study on psychology professors who self-reported their own creativity. The tests were performed before and after floating, and they rated their ideas in a blind sampling 6 months later. The study found that professors came up with more ideas after floating, and that those ideas were generally more creative (Suedfeld, P., 1987).

Into the 90s, while commercial floating was on the decline, research was still analyzing the benefits of flotation therapy, including improved memory (Peter Suedfeld & Eric Eich, 1995) and critical thinking skills (Norlander, T., Bergman, H., & Archer, T., 1995).

Studies were done with improved methodology at the Swedish Research Center in 2001, showing a marked change in post-float brains in the areas of consciousness, cognition, imagination, and personality (Norlander, T., Kjellgren, A., & Archer, T., 2001). These were exciting findings that corroborated the earlier study results.

In 2011, a study looking into the effects of flotation REST on jazz improvisation was conducted by Drs. Vartanian and Suedfeld. They found, in a controlled double blind study on music students, that technical skill in jazz improvisation showed a significant improvement in post-float versus pre-float environments (Vartanian,Oshin & Suedfeld, Peter, 2011).

Chamber REST Research

At the onset of REST research, there was a host of tests done on cognitive abilities and creative problem solving. Using early sensory isolation chambers, studies were done to see how participants performed on a variety of tasks before and after being exposed to the REST environment. Many tests found mixed results, with decreases, increases, and no changes as a result of chamber REST experiments on cognitive abilities. This is likely due to the poor testing conditions and uncontrolled variables (Fuerst, K. and Zubek, J. P., 1968) (Zubek, 1973).

Anecdotal Evidence Supported

In addition to the studies done on enhanced creativity, there have been many personal experiences from floaters and artists who have used the practice to help with their creative process. Many have used it to overcome writer’s block, to find inspiration, or work through a difficult aspect to their work.