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Imagine: How Creativity Works

Jonah Lehrer
The German philosopher Martin Heidegger referred to this as the unconcealing process. He argued, like Glaser, that the reality of things is naturally obscured by the clutter of the world, by all those ideas and sensations that distract the mind. The only way to see through this clutter is to rely on the knife of conscious attention, which can cut away the excess and reveal ?the things themselves.?
Imagine: How Creativity Works - Jonah Lehrer Loc. 1112-15 - Highlight on Page 73 | Added on Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 07:05 PM
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It was Morandi who taught me about dedication,? Glaser says. ?He showed me the necessity of persistence, and that nothing good is ever easy. And that?s because we see nothing at first glance. It?s only by really thinking about something that we?re able to move ourselves into perceptions that we never knew we had the capacity for.?
Imagine: How Creativity Works - Jonah Lehrer Loc. 1109-12 - Highlight on Page 73 | Added on Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 07:04 PM
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This loop of creativity illuminates the power of attention. When each of us focuses on something, the idea enters working memory. As a result, we?re able to slowly chisel away at our creative tasks. Perhaps it?s finally finding the perfect choreography for a dance or figuring out how to solve the architectural problem. These unprecedented thoughts are then transmitted back down the line, so that the brain modifies its own sense of what?s important.
Imagine: How Creativity Works - Jonah Lehrer Loc. 1042-45 - Highlight on Page 68 | Added on Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 06:59 PM
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This excess of ideas allows the neurons to form connections that have never existed before, wiring themselves into novel networks. From the perspective of the brain, these new connections are merely old thoughts that occur at the exact same time.
Imagine: How Creativity Works - Jonah Lehrer Loc. 966-67 - Highlight on Page 62 | Added on Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 06:54 PM
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The wiring of the brain reflects this evolutionary innovation: there?s a highway of nerves connecting the pleasure center?the dopamine reward pathway?to the prefrontal cortex, a mass of tissue behind the forehead that controls attention. This is the area that allows someone to zoom in on reality, so that all he is thinking about is a single line in a single poem. Instead of getting distracted by the wandering mind, he can concentrate on the work. This essential mental talent depends on the prefrontal cortex and the squirts of dopamine that help guide one?s gaze.
Imagine: How Creativity Works - Jonah Lehrer Loc. 940-44 - Highlight on Page 60 | Added on Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 06:52 PM
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It turns out that the real benefit of delight?and the reason amphetamines increase creative production?is its powerful effect on attention. The same neurons that generate happiness (and get titillated by Benzedrine) also play a crucial role in determining which thoughts enter conscious awareness. A sense of pleasure is the brain?s way of telling itself to look over there, or there, or there. The result is that dopamine acts like a neural currency?a price tag for information?allowing us to quickly appraise the outside world. The chemical tells us what we should notice, which things and thoughts are worth the cost of awareness.
Imagine: How Creativity Works - Jonah Lehrer Loc. 936-40 - Highlight on Page 60 | Added on Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 06:51 PM
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How does a little white pill make this kind of focused creativity easier? Why does Benzedrine make someone more likely to persevere? At first glance, the effects of the drug on the brain seem relatively minor. Amphetamines act primarily on a network of neurons that use dopamine, a neurotransmitter, to communicate with one another. (Our cells speak in squirts of chemical.) Within minutes, the drug dramatically increases the amount of dopamine in the synapses, which are the spaces between cells.2 This excess of neurotransmitter means that neurons are stuck in the active state, like a light that can?t be turned off.
Imagine: How Creativity Works - Jonah Lehrer Loc. 924-29 - Highlight on Page 59 | Added on Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 06:50 PM
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even though these stimulants inhibit our epiphanies (and sicken us with addiction), they seem to dramatically increase other kinds of creativity.
Imagine: How Creativity Works - Jonah Lehrer Loc. 898-99 - Highlight on Page 57 | Added on Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 06:48 PM
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The imagination, it turns out, is multifaceted. And so, when the right hemisphere has nothing to say, when distractions are just distractions, we need to rely on a very different circuit of cells. We can?t always wait for the insights to find us; sometimes, we have to search for them.
Imagine: How Creativity Works - Jonah Lehrer Loc. 884-86 - Highlight on Page 56 | Added on Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 06:47 PM
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The reality of the creative process is that it often requires persistence, the ability to stare at a problem until it makes sense. It?s forcing oneself to pay attention, to write all night and then fix those words in the morning.
Imagine: How Creativity Works - Jonah Lehrer Loc. 879-81 - Highlight on Page 56 | Added on Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 06:46 PM
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being surrounded by blue walls makes us more creative. According to the scientists, the color automatically triggers associations with the sky and ocean. We think about expansive horizons and diffuse light, sandy beaches and lazy summer days; alpha waves instantly increase.6
Imagine: How Creativity Works - Jonah Lehrer Loc. 830-32 - Highlight on Page 51 | Added on Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 06:42 PM
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productive daydreaming requires a delicate mental balancing act. On the one hand, translating boredom into a relaxed form of thinking leads to a thought process characterized by unexpected connections; a moment of monotony can become a rich source of insights. On the other hand, letting the mind wander so far away that it gets lost isn?t useful; even in the midst of an entertaining daydream, you need to maintain a foothold in the real world.
Imagine: How Creativity Works - Jonah Lehrer Loc. 806-9 - Highlight on Page 50 | Added on Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 06:41 PM
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Schooler distinguishes between two types of daydreaming. The first type occurs when people notice they are daydreaming only when prodded by the researcher. Although they?ve been told to press a button as soon as they realize their minds have started to wander, these people fail to press the button. The second type of daydreaming occurs when people catch themselves during the experiment?they notice they?re daydreaming on their own. According to Schooler?s data, individuals who are unaware that their minds have started wandering don?t exhibit increased creativity. ?The point is that it?s not enough to just daydream,? Schooler says. ?Letting your mind drift off is the easy part. The hard part is maintaining enough awareness so that even when you start to daydream you can interrupt yourself and notice a creative thought.?
Imagine: How Creativity Works - Jonah Lehrer Loc. 790-96 - Highlight on Page 48 | Added on Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 06:40 PM
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people who consistently engage in more daydreaming score significantly higher on measures of creativity.
Imagine: How Creativity Works - Jonah Lehrer Loc. 785-86 - Highlight on Page 48 | Added on Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 06:39 PM
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the default network, since it appears to be the default mode of thought. (We?re an absent-minded species, constantly disappearing down mental rabbit holes.) This network is most engaged when a person is performing a task that requires little conscious attention, such as routine driving on the highway or reading a tedious book. People had previously assumed that daydreaming was a lazy mental process, but Raichle?s fMRI studies demonstrated that the brain is extremely busy during the default state. There seems to be a particularly elaborate electrical conversation between the front and back parts of the brain, with the prefrontal folds (located just behind the eyes) firing in sync with the posterior cingulate, medial temporal lobe, and precuneus. These cortical areas don?t normally interact directly; they have different functions and are part of distinct neural pathways. It?s not until we start to daydream that they begin to work closely together.
Imagine: How Creativity Works - Jonah Lehrer Loc. 742-49 - Highlight on Page 45 | Added on Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 06:36 PM
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the inability to focus helps ensure a richer mixture of thoughts in consciousness. Because these people had difficulty filtering out the world, they ended up letting more in. Instead of approaching the problem from a predictable perspective, they considered all sorts of far-fetched analogies, some of which proved useful.
Imagine: How Creativity Works - Jonah Lehrer Loc. 720-22 - Highlight on Page 43 | Added on Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 06:33 PM
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How can we get better at conceptual blending? According to Mary Gick and Keith Holyoak, the psychologists behind the tumor puzzle, the key element is a willingness to consider information and ideas that don?t seem worth considering.
Imagine: How Creativity Works - Jonah Lehrer Loc. 709-11 - Highlight on Page 43 | Added on Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 06:32 PM
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the concept of Scotch tape eventually inspired another 3M engineer to invent the touch-screen technology used in smartphones. (Instead of coating cellophane, the clear glue is used to coat an electrically charged glass surface, which is then attached to a display.)
Imagine: How Creativity Works - Jonah Lehrer Loc. 674-75 - Highlight on Page 40 | Added on Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 06:30 PM
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the adhesive used in industrial-strength masking tape gave rise to the sound-dampening panels used in Boeing aircraft. (The material is so sticky that it even binds sound waves.) Those panels in turn gave rise to the extremely strong adhesive foam used in golf clubs, which can hold together carbon fiber and titanium during high impact.
Imagine: How Creativity Works - Jonah Lehrer Loc. 671-74 - Highlight on Page 40 | Added on Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 06:29 PM
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Insights, after all, come from the overlap between seemingly unrelated thoughts. They emerge when concepts are transposed, when the rules of one place are shifted to a new domain.
Imagine: How Creativity Works - Jonah Lehrer Loc. 651-53 - Highlight on Page 39 | Added on Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 06:27 PM
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