Tag Archives: prefrontal cortex

“Default Mode Network”, Positive Mood Increase Creative Problem Solving

Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud

“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.

Graham Wallas

Graham Wallas

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.

Michael D Greicius

Michael D Greicius

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.

Rebecca Koppel

Rebecca Koppel

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.

Mark Beeman

Mark Beeman

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.

John Kounios

John Kounios

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.

Ruby Nadler

Ruby Nadler

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.

Rahel Rabi

Rahel Rabi

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.

John Paul Minda

John Paul Minda

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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Beware of Seeking, Acting on Advice When Anxious, Sad

Just as wise grandmothers advise, it’s best to avoid decisions when upset, anxious, or sad.

Maurice Schweitzer

Maurice Schweitzer

Maurice Schweitzer and Alison Wood Brooks of Wharton and Harvard Business School’s Francesca Gino validated Grandmother Wisdom in eight experiments that demonstrated anxiety’s impact on lowering self-confidence, impairing information processing, and impeding ability to distinguish advice from neutral advisors and those with a conflict of interest.

Alison Wood Brooks

Alison Wood Brooks

They found that people experiencing anxiety tend to seek advice and act on it, but they are less able to differentiate poor advice from valid recommendations, and these results are applicable to making decisions about crucial medical treatment, financial investments, or even guidance counseling.

Francesca Gino

Francesca Gino

The team evoked anxious feeling among volunteers by presenting potentially frightening film clips and music, and asked them to judge a person’s weight based on a photograph or number of coins in a jar or solve a complex math problem.

Participants were offered money for correct judgments, and the opportunity to receive advice from others when they were uncertain.
Those who heard the scary music or saw the alarming film clip rated themselves as less confident of their decision, and were more likely to ask others for advice.
These effects were not observed when volunteers were shown a film clip that could provoke anger.

Schweitzer, Brooks, and Gino concluded that people vary in their receptivity to advice based on:

  • Advisor’s characteristics, such as expertise, consistent with Cialdini’s observation

    Robert Cialdini

    Robert Cialdini

  • Perceived difficulty of the decision
  • Decision maker’s emotional state when receiving advice

The researchers advised decision-makers to:

  • Monitor their internal states for anxiety
  • Use feedback from multiple sources when making important decisions
  • Work toward developing increased self-confidence
  • Evoke calm state, often possible with systematic breathing or mindful attention and equanimity
Catherine Hartley

Catherine Hartley

Catherine Hartley, then of New York University and Elizabeth Phelps of New York University contributed to the neuroeconomic analysis of anxiety’s impact on decision- making when they reported that brain structures responsible for regulating fear and anxiety are also involved in economic decision-making under uncertain conditions.

Elizabeth Phelps

Elizabeth Phelps

Specifically, the amygdala is crucial in learning, experiencing, and regulating both fear and anxiety and it is also implicated in decision-making in situations of potential loss.
The prefrontal cortex is specialized in controlling fear and is also involved in decisions containing risk elements.

Hartley and Phelps suggest that techniques for altering fear and anxiety may also improve economic decisions-making.

Rajagopal Raganathan

Rajagopal Raganathan

Rajagopal Raghunathan, then of New York University and Michel Tuan Pham of Columbia University demonstrated the same connection between anxiety and making decisions about gambling and job selection.

Michel Tuan Pham

Michel Tuan Pham

They conducted three experiments and found that sad individuals select high risk / high-reward gambling and job options, whereas anxious individuals are biased in favor of low-risk / low-reward options.

Raghunathan and Pham posit that anxiety tends to motivate people to reduce uncertainty whereas sadness moves people to replace rewards.
They suggest suggesting two different decision biases related to mood states.

Raghunathan and Pham add to Schweitzer, Brooks, and Gino’s recommendations for mitigating decision bias:

  • “Monitor feelings”
  • Consider alternate options
  • Speculate on future moods and preferences if each option were selected: “What would I feel better about . . .?

-*How do you mitigate the potential decision bias when anxious or sad?

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