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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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However, the same tendency that keeps us from contemplating irrelevant concepts also keeps us from coming up with insights. The reason is that our breakthroughs often arrive when we apply old solutions to new situations; for instance, a person thinking about sandpaper when he needs something sticky. Instead of keeping concepts separate, we start blending them together, trespassing on the standard boundaries of thought.
Imagine: How Creativity Works - Jonah Lehrer Loc. 636-39 - Highlight on Page 37 | Added on Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 06:26 PM
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The benefit of such horizontal interactions?people sharing knowledge across fields?is that it encourages conceptual blending, which is an extremely important part of the insight process.
Imagine: How Creativity Works - Jonah Lehrer Loc. 631-32 - Highlight on Page 37 | Added on Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 06:25 PM
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a recent study led by Holly White, a psychologist at the University of Memphis. White began by giving a large sample of undergraduates a variety of difficult creative tests. Surprisingly, those students diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) got significantly higher scores. White then measured levels of creative achievement in the real world, asking the students if they?d ever won prizes at juried art shows or been honored at science fairs. In every single domain, from drama to engineering, the students with ADHD had achieved more. Their attention deficit turned out to be a creative blessing.
Imagine: How Creativity Works - Jonah Lehrer Loc. 602-6 - Highlight on Page 35 | Added on Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 06:23 PM
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While it?s commonly assumed that the best way to solve a difficult problem is to relentlessly focus, this clenched state of mind comes with a hidden cost: it inhibits the sort of creative connections that lead to breakthroughs. We suppress the very type of brain activity that should be encouraged.
Imagine: How Creativity Works - Jonah Lehrer Loc. 575-77 - Highlight on Page 33 | Added on Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 06:14 PM
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Because positive moods allow us to relax, we focus less on the troubling world and more on these remote associations.
Imagine: How Creativity Works - Jonah Lehrer Loc. 568-69 - Highlight on Page 32 | Added on Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 06:13 PM
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Why is a relaxed state of mind so important for creative insights? When our minds are at ease?when those alpha waves are rippling through the brain?we?re more likely to direct the spotlight of attention inward, toward that stream of remote associations emanating from the right hemisphere. In contrast, when we are diligently focused, our attention tends to be directed outward, toward the details of the problems we?re trying to solve.
Imagine: How Creativity Works - Jonah Lehrer Loc. 553-56 - Highlight on Page 31 | Added on Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 06:12 PM
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What is this predictive brain signal? The essential element is a steady rhythm of alpha waves emanating from the right hemisphere. While the precise function of alpha waves remains mysterious, they?re closely associated with relaxing activities such as taking a warm shower. In fact, alpha waves are so crucial for insight that, according to Bhattacharya, subjects with insufficient alpha-wave activity are unable to utilize hints provided by the researchers.
Imagine: How Creativity Works - Jonah Lehrer Loc. 545-48 - Highlight on Page 30 | Added on Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 06:10 PM
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Joydeep Bhattacharya, a psychologist at Goldsmiths, University of London, has used EEG to help explain why interrupting one?s focus?perhaps with a walk outside or a game of Ping-Pong?can be so helpful. Interestingly, Bhattacharya has found that it?s possible to predict that a person will solve an insight puzzle up to eight seconds before the insight actually arrives.
Imagine: How Creativity Works - Jonah Lehrer Loc. 540-43 - Highlight on Page 30 | Added on Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 05:22 PM
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Creativity is the residue of time wasted. ?Albert Einstein
Imagine: How Creativity Works - Jonah Lehrer Loc. 470-71 - Highlight on Page 25 | Added on Sunday, June 10, 2012, 10:40 PM
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Unless poets are stumped by the form, unless they are forced to look beyond the obvious associations, they?ll never invent an original line. They?ll be stuck with clichés and conventions, with predictable adjectives and boring verbs. And this is why poetic forms are so important.
Imagine: How Creativity Works - Jonah Lehrer Loc. 445-47 - Highlight on Page 22 | Added on Wednesday, May 16, 2012, 02:15 AM
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Thirty milliseconds before the answer erupts into consciousness, there?s a spike of gamma-wave rhythm, which is the highest electrical frequency generated by the brain. Gamma rhythm is believed to come from the binding of neurons: cells distributed across the cortex draw themselves together into a new network that is then able to enter consciousness.
Imagine: How Creativity Works - Jonah Lehrer Loc. 365-68 - Highlight on Page 17 | Added on Wednesday, May 16, 2012, 02:09 AM
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everything that leads you to the insight happens unconsciously,?
Imagine: How Creativity Works - Jonah Lehrer Loc. 311-12 - Highlight on Page 13 | Added on Wednesday, May 16, 2012, 02:03 AM
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The world is so complex that the brain has to process it in two different ways at the same time,? Beeman says. ?It needs to see the forest and the trees. The right hemisphere is what helps you see the forest.?
Imagine: How Creativity Works - Jonah Lehrer Loc. 254-55 - Highlight on Page 9 | Added on Wednesday, May 16, 2012, 01:59 AM
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another essential feature of moments of insight: the feeling of certainty that accompanies the new idea.
Imagine: How Creativity Works - Jonah Lehrer Loc. 227-28 - Highlight on Page 7 | Added on Wednesday, May 16, 2012, 01:57 AM
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And when a solution does appear, it doesn?t come in dribs and drabs; the puzzle isn?t solved one piece at a time. Rather, the solution is shocking in its completeness. All of a sudden, the answer to the problem that seemed so daunting becomes incredibly obvious.
Imagine: How Creativity Works - Jonah Lehrer Loc. 219-21 - Highlight on Page 7 | Added on Wednesday, May 16, 2012, 01:56 AM
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The danger of telling this narrative is that the feeling of frustration?the act of being stumped?is an essential part of the creative process.
Imagine: How Creativity Works - Jonah Lehrer Loc. 214-15 - Highlight on Page 6 | Added on Wednesday, May 16, 2012, 01:55 AM
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