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Secrets of the Creative Brain

Early History

The connection between genius and possible insanity was first documented in 1891 in the Italian physicians’ book The Man Of Genius.

In 1869, this was taken up by the cousin of Charles Darwin, Francis Galton in his work Hereditary Genius.

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IDEA EXTRACTED FROM:

Secrets of the Creative Brain

Secrets of the Creative Brain

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/07/secrets-of-the-creative-brain/372299/

theatlantic.com

13

Key Ideas

Early History

The connection between genius and possible insanity was first documented in 1891 in the Italian physicians’ book The Man Of Genius.

In 1869, this was taken up by the cousin of Charles Darwin, Francis Galton in his work Hereditary Genius.

Genius and Heredity

In a 1904 study by English physician Havelock Ellis, a list was made of 1030 individuals through extensive research, examining thoroughly the intellectual distinction people had by the various factors like heredity, general health, and social class.


These works established that genius minds are often hereditary.

Genetic Studies Of Genius

A body of work of Stanford psychologist Lewis M. Terman, was an in-depth multi-decade study of gifted individuals, and an attempt to improve the measurement of genius and its association with the degradation of mental stability. This also included an enhanced version of the French IQ (Intelligence Quotient) test.

The Findings On IQ

The extensive studies had some ground-breaking findings at that time, like:

  • Being the youngest student in a grade predicted a high IQ.
  • A high IQ was not a factor of a writer's creativity.
  • A high IQ did not predict creative achievement later in life.

The Inner Workings Of Creativity

The very definition of creativity is being bent and reshaped in various studies. The two kinds of thinking that emerged were:

  • Divergent Thinking: The ability to produce multiple responses to the probe.
  • Convergent Thinking: The ability to produce one correct answer to problems that have only one answer.

History tells us that some of mankind’s most creative achievements have been the result of convergent thinking, like the discovery of gravity or the properties of Energy(E=mc2)

Big C Little C

  • The study of already established geniuses is known as the ‘Duck Test’, as it focuses on people who are already different from the general population. This is referred to as the Big C.

  • The study approach of ‘little c’ takes the opposite approach and develops quantitative assessments of creativity in a much wider group, over a period of time.

The Eureka Moment Takes Years

As the brain has as many neurons as the stars in the Milky Way, the capturing of human mental processes can be a daunting task.

Creativity is not a one-shot singular experience, and cannot be captured in a ‘Eureka’ moment. It cannot be produced at a high or consistent rate, on-demand. It is a natural process that takes years or decades to fully form inside the mind, taking inputs from a variety of diverse sources and experiences.

The Complex Mind

... has various layers of nerve cells, their dendrites. These regions, whose functions are manifold consist of the primary visual, auditory, sensory and motor cortices. Apart from these basic internal decoders, there are the association cortices which help us sort and filter the information received, helping the brain form out a ‘verbal lexicon’ of associated meanings and memories.

The verbal lexicon differs in individuals with different creative output, with highly creative ones having rich and complex cortical connections.

The Need To Relax

The wild, explosive findings are a product of the lull, relaxed mindset, with long periods of preparation, gestation and incubation.

Writers routinely talk about being in a trance while writing, with the association cortices being wildly active. It’s like your mind is connected to a giant mountain of creativity, and is taking a small fragment of it. Only a calm and relaxed mind can achieve this.

Too Many Ideas

A super creative mind with an abundance of creative ideas can be counterproductive. The most common problems with creative minds of genius-level can be bipolar disorder, depression, chronic anxiety or panic disorder, and alcoholism.

The reason for this can be their over-the-top, over-the-edge lifestyles, which are adventuresome and exploratory. The world isn’t synced with them, and they are unable to bear this after some time, as their inner world is completely different from their outer reality

Autodidacts

Most creative people are self-taught, be it Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg. They ‘think different’ and find that the standard, spoon-fed ways of learning are not helpful and may even be curbing their natural creativity.

The Edge Of Creativity

Polymaths are individuals with deep interests and expertise in a variety of creative fields. Many historic creative geniuses were polymaths, including Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.

Creative people are also persistent in their beliefs and can be resilient when confronted with rejection or scepticism.

Arkham Asylum

Creative people are able to believe things normal people don’t, making them seem mentally ill or having some hallucinations.

Their defense is that they have many ideas, and due to many neurological connections they form in their brains, sometimes those ideas are crazy for others who are having limited mindsets.

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Restrict yourself

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Re-conceptualize the problem

Instead of thinking of a cut-and-dry end goal to certain situations, creative people sit back and examine the problem in different ways before beginning to work.

If you find yourself stagnating by focusing on generic problems, try to re-conceptualize the problem by focusing on a more meaningful angle.

For example: Instead of thinking “What would be something cool to paint?” rather ask, “What sort of painting evokes the feeling of loneliness that we all encounter after a break-up?”

Create psychological distance

Creating “psychological” distance may be useful for breaking through a creative block.

Try to imagine your creative task as being disconnected and distant from your current position/location - this may make the problem more accessible and can encourage higher level thinking.

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"Pareidolia"
"Pareidolia"

A team of neuroscientists believes there might be a meaningful link between creativity and seeing faces in clouds.

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Studying involuntary imagination

At first, pareidolia (seeing shapes in clouds and in other inanimate objects) was seen negatively rather than a sign of creativity. It was even considered to be a symptom of psychosis or dementia.

In 1895, French psychologist Alfred Binet - known for his work on IQ tests - suggested that inkblots could be used in psychological research to study differences in involuntary imagination. This idea was further developed, resulting in inkblots to investigate people's personality and assess their psychological state.

Imagination is a sign of creativity

The creative aspect of pareidolia became known in the 19th century with the practice of 'klecksography' - the art of making images from inkblots.

Writer Victor Hugo experimented with folded papers and stains by holding his quill upside down to use the feather-end as a brush. Another practitioner of klecksography, German poet Justinus Andreas Christian Kerner, published Kleksographien (1890), a collection of inkblot art with accompanying short poems about the objects that can be noticed in the images.

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Creativity is complex

It means producing something novel or original, evaluating, solving problems, whether on paper, on stage, in a laboratory or even in the shower.

Knowing how to think

Geniuses know “how” to think, instead of “what” to think.

People who are more creative can simultaneously engage brain networks that don’t typically work together.

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