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Secrets of the Creative Brain. As a psychiatrist and neuroscientist who studies creativity, I’ve had the pleasure of working with many gifted and high-profile subjects over the years, but Kurt Vonnegut—dear, funny, eccentric, lovable, tormented Kurt Vonnegut—will always be one of my favorites.

Secrets of the Creative Brain

Kurt was a faculty member at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in the 1960s, and participated in the first big study I did as a member of the university’s psychiatry department. I was examining the anecdotal link between creativity and mental illness, and Kurt was an excellent case study. He was intermittently depressed, but that was only the beginning. His mother had suffered from depression and committed suicide on Mother’s Day, when Kurt was 21 and home on military leave during World War II. His son, Mark, was originally diagnosed with schizophrenia but may actually have bipolar disorder. While mental illness clearly runs in the Vonnegut family, so, I found, does creativity.

“Doing good science is … like having good sex. How to Train Your Mind to Think Critically and Form Your Own Opinions. How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes: Lessons in Mindfulness and Creativity from the Great Detective. By Maria Popova “A man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose.”

How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes: Lessons in Mindfulness and Creativity from the Great Detective

“The habit of mind which leads to a search for relationships between facts,” wrote James Webb Young in his famous 1939 5-step technique for creative problem-solving, “becomes of the highest importance in the production of ideas.” But just how does one acquire those vital cognitive customs? That’s precisely what science writer Maria Konnikova explores in Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes (UK; public library) — an effort to reverse-engineer Holmes’s methodology into actionable insights that help develop “habits of thought that will allow you to engage mindfully with yourself and your world as a matter of course.” The idea of mindfulness itself is by no means a new one. It is most difficult to apply Holmes’s logic in those moments that matter the most. Our intuition is shaped by context, and that context is deeply informed by the world we live in. The Baloney Detection Kit: Carl Sagan’s Rules for Bullshit-Busting and Critical Thinking.

The Genius of Dogs and a Dimensional Definition of Human Intelligence. By Maria Popova “Genius means that someone can be gifted with one type of cognition while being average or below average in another.”

The Genius of Dogs and a Dimensional Definition of Human Intelligence

For much of modern history, dogs have inspired a wealth of art and literature, profound philosophical meditations, scientific curiosity, deeply personal letters, photographic admiration, and even some cutting-edge data visualization. But what is it that makes dogs so special in and of themselves, and so dear to us? Despite the mind-numbing title, The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter than You Think (public library; UK) by Brian Hare, evolutionary anthropologist and founder of the Duke Canine Cognition Center, and Vanessa Woods offers a fascinating tour of radical research on canine cognition, from how the self-domestication of dogs gave them a new kind of social intelligence to what the minds of dogs reveal about our own. The Science of Orgasms and Your Brain on Porn. How Mind-Wandering and “Positive Constructive Daydreaming” Enhance Creativity and Improve Our Social Skills.

By Maria Popova.

How Mind-Wandering and “Positive Constructive Daydreaming” Enhance Creativity and Improve Our Social Skills

Studies_shows_why_boredom_may_boost_creativity. Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images This story first appeared in Inc.

studies_shows_why_boredom_may_boost_creativity

These days there are more options than ever to avoid ever feeling truly bored. Got five minutes to spare? Whip out your phone for some gaming or trawl through Twitter. Have a bit more time? At first blush that sounds like a great thing. How? Researchers recently confirmed the counterintuitive creativity-boosting effects of boredom by subjecting one group of study participants to the mind-numbing task of copying out the telephone book for 15 minutes.

A follow-up study compared those who were given passive but boring tasks (just reading the phone book, i.e. the rough equivalent of hearing someone drone on stultifyingly at a meeting) to those completing the original active but boring task of writing out telephone numbers. Why You Need Boredom, Distraction, and Procrastination in Your Life. The Science of Procrastination and How to Manage It, Animated. Susan Cain on the Power of Introverts, Live-Illustrated by Molly Crabapple. This Will Make You Smarter: 151 Big Thinkers Each Pick a Concept to Enhance Your Cognitive Toolkit. Swami Vivekananda on the Secret of Work: Intelligent Consolation for the Pressures of Productivity from 1896. By Maria Popova “Every work that we do… every thought that we think, leaves such an impression on the mind-stuff…” In December of 1895, the renowned Indian Hindu monk and philosopher Swami Vivekananda, then in his early thirties, traveled to New York, rented a couple of rooms at 228 West 39th Street, where he spent a month holding a series of public lectures on the notion of karma — translated as work — and various other aspects of mental discipline.

Swami Vivekananda on the Secret of Work: Intelligent Consolation for the Pressures of Productivity from 1896

They attracted a number of famous followers, including groundbreaking inventor Nikola Tesla and pioneering psychologist and philosopher William James, and were eventually transcribed and published as Karma Yoga: The Yoga of Action (public library) in 1896. Among the most timeless of them is one titled “The Secret of Work,” in which Vivekananda examines with ever-timely poignancy the ways in which we mistake the doing for the being and worship the perspirations of our productivity over the aspirations of our soul.

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