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The Science Behind Eureka Moments

The mind needs space

...not distractions. Activities like checking email and watching TV stop our background thinking and do not let the mind wander in places that make for creative insight.

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The Science Behind Eureka Moments

The Science Behind Eureka Moments

https://elemental.medium.com/the-science-behind-eureka-moments-6729e3ce4de7

elemental.medium.com

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Key Ideas

The 'Eureka' moment

Eureka moments may seem unpredictable and unreplicable. But there are ways to coax these inspired ideas from their hiding places. One of the best is to take a break from thinking about a problem or dilemma.

They are linked to the story of Archimedes and the gold crown ( when he realized while taking a bath that he can use displaced water to assess the density of the king's crown and, therefore, its gold content).

“When you’re completely stuck on a problem, setting it aside can lead to new ideas or even flashes of insight.” 

“When you’re completely stuck on a problem, setting it aside can lead to new ideas or even flashes of insight.” 

Mental Break

A 2019 study titled “When the Muses Strike” found that many physicists and writers had creative insights while they exercised, showered, gardened, or engaged in other predominantly physical activities which gave them a mental break.

The mind needs space

...not distractions. Activities like checking email and watching TV stop our background thinking and do not let the mind wander in places that make for creative insight.

Creativity and relaxation

  • Creativity is closely related to play, not work, so do not have an agenda.
  • Lighten up and let yourself loose, free to roam and explore.
  • The mind left to itself starts to work creatively in the background at a subconscious level.

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Combinatory Play

We’ve all experienced that flash of insight, that fleeting moment when a solution we’ve been grinding away at reveals itself in an unexpected place.

Einstein, for example, was known...

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“Creativity is just connecting things.”
How The Brain Works

The brain’s building blocks are neurons: nerve cells that receive and transmit signals along neural pathways. Certain pathways are forged at birth. Others can be manipulated by learning. 

So when you’re stuck in a rut, your brain’s neurons could literally be stuck on a neural pathway you’ve carved out through your behavior. But you can get unstuck by choosing to make new connections.

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The 2 goals of effective brainstorming:
The 2 goals of effective brainstorming:
  • Defer judgment (don’t get upset when people say bad ideas).
  • Reach for quantity (come up with as many ideas as possible).
Obstacles to an effective brainstorming:
  • Fear of judgment from people in positions of power;
  • Extroverts take center stage;
  • Groups hate scary ideas, even it they're great ones;
Steps of the creative process
  1. Preparation: individual study to focus your mind on the problem;
  2. Incubation: the problem enters your unconscious mind and nothing appears to be happening externally;
  3. Intimation: you get a “feeling” that a solution is on the way;
  4. Illumination: your creative idea moves to conscious awareness;
  5. Verification: your idea is consciously verified, expanded upon, and then executed.
The Incubation Period

That’s a scientifically recognized phenomenon where an idea is unconsciously worked out by the brain. It often happens when we are trying to solve a hard problem and take a break to do an...

The “Incubation Period” Mechanisms
  • Eliciting new knowledge: when you stop problem-solving, your brain keeps working on it in the background and may come across memories you may have ignored when you were actively trying to think about the problem.
  • Selective forgetting: an incubation period weakens the unhelpful solutions that are distracting you. 
  • Problem restructuring: stepping away from the problem lets your brain reorganize the problem.
Using The Incubation Period

When you're struggling with a problem or decision take a break from thinking hard.

Some studies say an incubation period as short as 10 minutes might be enough to gain a new perspective. But that’s not unanimous, so you might want to experiment to discover what works for you.