• Tips gratefully accepted here. Thanks!:

  • Recent Comments

    Kathleen A Wynne on Throw it against the wall, see…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Throw it against the wall, see…
    riverdaughter on Throw it against the wall, see…
    William on Throw it against the wall, see…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Throw it against the wall, see…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Throw it against the wall, see…
    bellecat on Throw it against the wall, see…
    William on Throw it against the wall, see…
    jmac on This is the plan.
    bellecat on This is the plan.
    William on This is the plan.
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on This is the plan.
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on This is the plan.
    Catscatscats on This is the plan.
    William on This is the plan.
  • Categories


  • Tags

    abortion Add new tag Afghanistan Al Franken Anglachel Atrios bankers Barack Obama Bernie Sanders big pharma Bill Clinton cocktails Conflucians Say Dailykos Democratic Party Democrats Digby DNC Donald Trump Donna Brazile Economy Elizabeth Warren feminism Florida Fox News General Glenn Beck Glenn Greenwald Goldman Sachs health care Health Care Reform Hillary Clinton Howard Dean John Edwards John McCain Jon Corzine Karl Rove Matt Taibbi Media medicare Michelle Obama Michigan misogyny Mitt Romney Morning Edition Morning News Links Nancy Pelosi New Jersey news NO WE WON'T Obama Obamacare OccupyWallStreet occupy wall street Open thread Paul Krugman Politics Presidential Election 2008 PUMA racism Republicans research Sarah Palin sexism Single Payer snark Social Security Supreme Court Terry Gross Texas Tim Geithner unemployment Wall Street WikiLeaks women
  • Archives

  • History

    December 2014
    S M T W T F S
     123456
    78910111213
    14151617181920
    21222324252627
    28293031  
  • RSS Paul Krugman: Conscience of a Liberal

  • The Confluence

    The Confluence

  • RSS Suburban Guerrilla

    • Too close, Onion. Too close.
      Undecided Voter Looking Forward To Learning More About Donald Trump During Campaign https://t.co/OtGM5CGYuw — Suburban Guerrilla Ω (@SusieMadrak) August 10, 2020
  • RSS Ian Welsh

    • Cold War 2.0 Incoming
      Right, with the ban on Huawei using chips made with American manufacturing equipment (one of America’s last few places of absolute advantage); the bans of TikTok, Tencent and WeChat; the attempt to convince other countries to not use Huawei 5G; the arrest of the Huawei founder’s daughter for doing business with Iran along with the […]
  • Top Posts

The Neuroscience of Creativity

James Joyce: creative and a bit crazy

Spoiler alert: It’s not about your IQ.

According to the fascinating article in The Atlantic, Secrets of the Creative Brain, by Nancy Andreason, you can be a creative genius with an IQ of 120. That doesn’t mean that an IQ of 170 puts you at a disadvantage, only that extra points are unnecessary.

So, what is the extra something that contributes to creativity? It helps if you’re a bit mad but I’ll get to that later. There are more traits associated with creativity. For example, your personal “verbal lexicon”, the way you associate language to other information is very important to creativity.

Here’s another finding that I can relate to:

When eureka moments occur, they tend to be precipitated by long periods of preparation and incubation, and to strike when the mind is relaxed.

This has been my personal experience when I have had rare flashes of insight at work. I have no idea what my IQ is and would hardly put myself in the genius category. But I do have a strategy I call it “putting an elf on it”. Here’s how it goes: There’s a period of intense concentration and learning. I tend to learn better when I’m thrown in the deep end of the pool and have to struggle to keep my head above water (assuming there’s nothing else for me to worry about). The learning curve needs to be sufficiently steep and I need to be fully engaged. And then, just when I can’t focus on a niggling problem anymore, I need to stop doing that and do something completely unrelated for awhile. Sometimes that means surfing the net mindlessly or playing some mind numbing word game or listening to a book in an unrelated genre. Before I do that, I mentally gather the elves that are lazily sitting around in my mind and tell them I’m going home for the day and I’m assigning them the task of figuring the problem out or I send one down into the archives to retrieve that missing piece of information. Then I disengage and do something else while the elves do their thing without my supervision. It’s not long before the elves start forwarding their information. It usually arrives in bits and pieces, phrases or some nugget of an idea. Some assembly is required. I have some elves that are particularly busy at night and like to put little puns and riddles in my dreams.

My elf solution sounds a bit like what Andreason would call “random episodic silent thought” or REST. It’s like free association in a relaxed state.

Some other findings: the more associations you can make, the better your chances of doing something creative. Polymaths are more creative because they have a lot of interests and do multiple things well. Nurturing may have something to do with creativity. Did your parents indulge your creative whims with trips to the craft store, museums or other places of interest? It helps if your family also valued education and study. Creative people tend to work harder at their jobs because they love their work. I have to say that I really fell in love with my job during the last two years at work. This is when I felt like I was most creative and it was so much fun. Who knows if it would have lead to any breakthroughs but this study should be read by the people who are running R&D into the ground right now. True innovation requires happily engaged people who are allowed to disengage periodically without fear of being laid off.

What about madness and genius? Andreason says there is a link. The families of highly creative people are chock full of mood disorders. Many highly creative people have at least one relative who is schizophrenic, though schizophrenia itself could derail creativity. The reason why mental illness is important to the highly creative is because the brain is more easily unmoored and can find connections that other people can’t.

These are only a few of the findings of Andreason’s study. After having spent a good deal of time in the past twenty five years around scientifically creative people, I’d say she is on to something. Read the whole thing.