Saturday, August 4, 2012

More on left-brainers and creativity

Does creativity favor the "right-brain" mindset or the "left-brain" mindset?

Our stereotypes would say the latter. So do some recent findings by neuroscientist and creativity researcher John Kounios:

1. Feelings of sudden insight coincide with bursts of electrical activity in the right hemisphere.
2. Compared to others, creative types appear to be less narrowly focused (in Kounios' words, "Their attention seems to be more diffused, spread out") and more easily distracted--consistent with the notion that creativity involves improbable connections between normally non-associated stimuli or concepts.

But Kounios' studies of the split seconds leading up to creative insight show something else:

1. Momentary reduction in the brain's flow of visual information
2. ...allowing the brain to turn inwards and notice its (initially weak) associations that may then pop into consciousness as sudden bursts of insight.

"Chance favors the prepared mind," Kounios quotes Louis Pasteur as saying. In the case of creativity, the prepared mind appears to be an introspecting one that momentarily cuts itself off from incoming visual distractions.

In other words, creativity seems to require both dispersed and focused attention, and both a susceptibility to outside distractions and a capacity for tuning things out and turning inwards.

With the shower--rather than the cup of coffee--providing the most conducive environment.

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