“Aimless engagement” in an activity can enable a non-linear, integrative “free association” of ideas leading to creative breakthroughs, confirmed Drexel University’s John Kounios.
Many people recognize this experience of creative “incubation” while performing routine, well-rehearsed tasks, though they may not be aware that nearly 90 years ago, Graham Wallas of London School of Economics proposed this phenomenon one of four stages in the creativity process.
The brain’s posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) and ventral anterior cingulate cortex (vACC) operate as a “default mode network” during this type of relaxed engagement, found Stanford’s Michael D. Greicius, Ben Krasnow, Allan L. Reiss, and Vinod Menon.
During free-flowing ideation, these brain regions “untether” thoughts from usual associational “mental ruts” to commingle in original ways.
“Fixation forgetting” enables this innovative recombination of thoughts to develop innovative solutions, according to University of Illinois’s Rebecca Koppel and Benjamin C. Storm of University of California Santa Cruz.
Creative problem solving through insight also involves the right hemisphere’s anterior superior temporal gyrus (aSTG), an area associated with recognizing broad associative semantic relationships, reported Kounios and colleagues at Northwestern, Mark Beeman, Edward M Bowden, Jason Haberman, Stella Arambel-Liu, and Paul J Reber, collaborating with Kounios and Jennifer L Frymiare, also of Drexel, and Source Signal Imaging’s Richard Greenblatt.
They concluded that creative problem solving requires the ability to encode, retrieve, and evaluate information.
When insight is involved, integration of distantly related information is also needed.
In addition to these skills, University of Western Ontario’s Ruby T. Nadler, Rahel Rabi and John Paul Minda found that cognitive flexibility for problem-solving activates the prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex, areas important in creative hypothesis-testing and rule-selection.
Additionally, they confirmed that creative solutions can be enabled by eliciting a positive mood.
The team induced positive, neutral, and negative moods using music clips and video clips, and asked volunteers to classify pictures with visually complex patterns.
People in the positive-mood condition showed better classification learning than those with induced neutral or negative moods, suggesting that upbeat music effectively enhanced creative thinking while boosting innovators’ mood.
Somewhat surprisingly, capturing ideas through handwriting or typing can attenuate innovation because recording requires a shift to a more linear organization of thoughts, posited Kounios.
-*How can you capture creative solutions while maintaining innovative momentum?
-*How can you prevent “fixation forgetting” from interfering with accessing information required for creative work?
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