Tyson Adams

Putting the 'ill' back in thriller

Archive for the tag “creativity”

Creativity Explained


Last week I reblogged an article about some new research into what makes us creative. This week I’m sharing a video from one of my favourite YouTube channels, which essentially covers the same work. But this one is a video!

Since this is going to be a three part series, I’ll update this post as the other videos are released.

Part 2:

Further reading:

Kidd, C., & Hayden, B. Y. (2015). The psychology and neuroscience of curiosity. Neuron, 88(3), 449-460.

De Pisapia, N., Bacci, F., Parrott, D., & Melcher, D. (2016). Brain networks for visual creativity: a functional connectivity study of planning a visual artwork. Scientific reports, 6.

The Real Neuroscience of Creativity – Scientific American.

Eagleman, D., & Brandt, A. (2017). The Runaway Species: How human creativity remakes the world.

Catapult. Durante, D., & Dunson, D. B. (2018). Bayesian inference and testing of group differences in brain networks. Bayesian Analysis, 13(1), 29-58.

Li, W., Yang, J., Zhang, Q., Li, G., & Qiu, J. (2016). The Association between Resting Functional Connectivity and Visual Creativity. Scientific reports, 6.

Bendetowicz, D., Urbanski, M., Aichelburg, C., Levy, R., & Volle, E. (2017). Brain morphometry predicts individual creative potential and the ability to combine remote ideas. Cortex, 86, 216-229.


New study reveals why some people are more creative than others

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The question has long eluded researchers. agsandrew/Shutterstock.com

Roger Beaty, Harvard University

Creativity is often defined as the ability to come up with new and useful ideas. Like intelligence, it can be considered a trait that everyone – not just creative “geniuses” like Picasso and Steve Jobs – possesses in some capacity.

It’s not just your ability to draw a picture or design a product. We all need to think creatively in our daily lives, whether it’s figuring out how to make dinner using leftovers or fashioning a Halloween costume out of clothes in your closet. Creative tasks range from what researchers call “little-c” creativity – making a website, crafting a birthday present or coming up with a funny joke – to “Big-C” creativity: writing a speech, composing a poem or designing a scientific experiment.

Psychology and neuroscience researchers have started to identify thinking processes and brain regions involved with creativity. Recent evidence suggests that creativity involves a complex interplay between spontaneous and controlled thinking – the ability to both spontaneously brainstorm ideas and deliberately evaluate them to determine whether they’ll actually work.

Despite this progress, the answer to one question has remained particularly elusive: What makes some people more creative than others?

In a new study, my colleagues and I examined whether a person’s creative thinking ability can be explained, in part, by a connection between three brain networks.

Mapping the brain during creative thinking

In the study, we had 163 participants complete a classic test of “divergent thinking” called the alternate uses task, which asks people to think of new and unusual uses for objects. As they completed the test, they underwent fMRI scans, which measures blood flow to parts of the brain.

The task assesses people’s ability to diverge from the common uses of an object. For example, in the study, we showed participants different objects on a screen, such as a gum wrapper or a sock, and asked to come up with creative ways to use them. Some ideas were more creative than others. For the sock, one participant suggested using it to warm your feet – the common use for a sock – while another participant suggested using it as a water filtration system.

Importantly, we found that people who did better on this task also tended to report having more creative hobbies and achievements, which is consistent with previous studies showing that the task measures general creative thinking ability.

After participants completed these creative thinking tasks in the fMRI, we measured functional connectivity between all brain regions – how much activity in one region correlated with activity in another region.

We also ranked their ideas for originality: Common uses received lower scores (using a sock to warm your feet), while uncommon uses received higher scores (using a sock as a water filtration system).

Then we correlated each person’s creativity score with all possible brain connections (approximately 35,000), and removed connections that, according to our analysis, didn’t correlate with creativity scores. The remaining connections constituted a “high-creative” network, a set of connections highly relevant to generating original ideas.

Two renderings show the lobes of the brain that are connected in the high creative network.
Author provided

Having defined the network, we wanted to see if someone with stronger connections in this high-creative network would score well on the tasks. So we measured the strength of a person’s connections in this network, and then used predictive modeling to test whether we could estimate a person’s creativity score.

The models revealed a significant correlation between the predicted and observed creativity scores. In other words, we could estimate how creative a person’s ideas would be based on the strength of their connections in this network.

We further tested whether we could predict creative thinking ability in three new samples of participants whose brain data were not used in building the network model. Across all samples, we found that we could predict – albeit modestly – a person’s creative ability based on the strength of their connections in this same network.

Overall, people with stronger connections came up with better ideas.

What’s happening in a ‘high-creative’ network

We found that the brain regions within the “high-creative” network belonged to three specific brain systems: the default, salience and executive networks.

The default network is a set of brain regions that activate when people are engaged in spontaneous thinking, such as mind-wandering, daydreaming and imagining. This network may play a key role in idea generation or brainstorming – thinking of several possible solutions to a problem.

The executive control network is a set of regions that activate when people need to focus or control their thought processes. This network may play a key role in idea evaluation or determining whether brainstormed ideas will actually work and modifying them to fit the creative goal.

The salience network is a set of regions that acts as a switching mechanism between the default and executive networks. This network may play a key role in alternating between idea generation and idea evaluation.

An interesting feature of these three networks is that they typically don’t get activated at the same time. For example, when the executive network is activated, the default network is usually deactivated. Our results suggest that creative people are better able to co-activate brain networks that usually work separately.

Our findings indicate that the creative brain is “wired” differently and that creative people are better able to engage brain systems that don’t typically work together. Interestingly, the results are consistent with recent fMRI studies of professional artists, including jazz musicians improvising melodies, poets writing new lines of poetry and visual artists sketching ideas for a book cover.

Future research is needed to determine whether these networks are malleable or relatively fixed. For example, does taking drawing classes lead to greater connectivity within these brain networks? Is it possible to boost general creative thinking ability by modifying network connections?

The ConversationFor now, these questions remain unanswered. As researchers, we just need to engage our own creative networks to figure out how to answer them.

Roger Beaty, Postdoctoral Fellow in Cognitive Neuroscience, Harvard University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

How creativity works…

Sir Ken Robinson - Do schools kill creativity?

Who else has had this conversation? I know I have. A few years ago I blogged about Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk title Do Schools Kill Creativity, worth a read and watch.

How to be creative

Couple of interesting videos I thought I’d share. The first is a recent video that refers to some fascinating research that looked at musical creativity with fMRI scans.

The second video is from the indomitable John Cleese.

Creativity is not an easy thing to achieve. I hope these two videos give others a few pointers.

Update: Another great video from Brain Craft on creativity to add to the list.

John Cleese on Creativity

Like everyone else with a pulse, I’m a Monty Python fan. Whether it be a killer white rabbit or a very naughty boy, there is nothing quite like the laughs that a Python sketch can illicit. I recently found this lecture that John Cleese gave on creativity. It is quite interesting the ground he covers and the conditions that are needed to be cultivated in order to be creative. Hope everyone gets as much out of this as I did.

Barry Eisler on Publishing

Barry Eisler is an interesting fellow, but this blog post is mainly for my writer friends.

I can’t claim to have read any of Barry’s books yet – although I have bought two which are waiting on my Kindle to-be-read list – but he does have some interesting things to say about publishing and writing. These videos are from a Q&A session he did in Boston. Enjoy.

Barry Eisler, Publish It Forward Lecture Part 1 from Grub Street on Vimeo.

Barry Eisler, Publish It Forward Part 2 (Q&A) from Grub Street on Vimeo.

Barry Eisler, Publish It Forward Part 3 (Q&A) from Grub Street on Vimeo.

NaNoWriMo 2011 – Day 27

Okay, I’m so close I can taste victory. What doesn’t help is that I happened to write 1200 words on a different project today and yesterday I had a great idea for another story that I had to get the basic synopsis written down before I forgot it.

Regardless I have hit 42,000 words and this last week of writing indicates I can have NaNoWriMo conquered on my first outing. This is, of course, assuming my procrastination fairy doesn’t arrive with a hilarious site filled with internet memes.

Hope everyone else is having fun with their writing. For those of you who are just plain old readers, I hope you’ve been laughing heartily at your writing pals. Remember to tempt them with time wasting activities from now until the 30th.

Words Written: 1,502 (per day average)
Total: 42,068
Remaining: 7,932 – very doable.

NaNoWriMo 2011 – Day 10: Writing is overrated!

So I’m travelling through this first fortnight of NaNoWriMo at a less than stellar pace. I’ve technically had most days free to write as much as I please. I’d imagined this would result in 10,000 word days and that I’d have that pesky 50,000 word total done before I go back to drudgery next week (or the day job, which ever term you prefer).

The reality has been much too horrid for me to bear. All of those professional authors who talked about how hard it was to hit writing targets were right. I guess that is why they are the professionals and I’m still the amateur, they must use better whips on the room full of monkeys.

Of course I have still been achieving the required writing goals, but the problem with having a day job is that it will suddenly rear its ugly head and swing me around in its mighty jaws as it seeks to devour me whole. Being on schedule might be a bad thing at this point. Maybe I should think more like a blogger or self-publishing slime-ball and just write rubbish: who actually needs the chapters to fit together?

Either way I’m enjoying writing every day, and I am actually achieving my primary goal of sitting around having fun. My secondary goal was to get into the habit of daily writing and getting sizable chunks written. That is my achilles heel as a writer, not finishing the larger projects. My writing itself is actually quite good – IMHO – and I’m continually working on aspects that need polish. As Stephen Leather said, writers do need to focus on becoming better writers.

Words Written: 1,698 (per day)
Total: 16,985
Remaining: 33,015

How has everyone else fared so far?

Creativity again

This follows on very nicely from my post on schools stifling creativity, the video of Sir Ken Robinson.

In fairness to John’s teachers, he did marry Yoko, maybe John missed the point of life.

Sir Ken Robinson – Do schools kill creativity?

I have found memories of school. I fondly remember coming home from it each day. I remember English class: ‘I want to write a story about robot spys.’ ‘Well you can’t, we’re writing about the Eureka Stockade.’ Ahh, good times.

So today’s blog is about how schools are designed and operated. If anyone has any idea how they are actually designed and operated I believe there is a highly underpaid position available for you to take up to improve the situation. Sir Ken Robinson presents an interesting polemic in the video below, essentially saying that creativity is beaten out of kids in order to make it easier to manage them in a class. What are your experiences?

The only part I wholly disagree with is the bit about multitasking. The research on that is fundamentally flawed. That research has usually compared people who multitask all of the time with people who don’t at all, i.e. they compared pot addicted college students who needed the study participation fee to buy beer with people who actually did stuff, usually housewives. Real multitasking is largely a myth. You can do several tasks at once but you will do them all poorly in comparison to focussing on them one at a time.

So did you have your creativity killed off by going to school like I did?

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