Creativity

Scientists Use Brain Stimulation to Boost Creativity

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Consider this. It’s time to do that creative thing you do, be it music, art, writing, whatever. You strap on a cap and it stimulates your brain in such a way, as to ramp up your creative juices. According to researchers at Queen Mary and Goldsmith’s Universities, both of London, such a device could, someday, become a reality.

They caution too that there are already a lot of hucksters out there, who are leveraging public interest and ignorance, in order to make a buck. We’re not there yet. But we are making headway. The results of this study were published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Really creative types are known to be mavericks. They don’t like to follow rules or society’s conventions. This plays out on the neurological level as well. A part of the brain called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) is the stickler of the human mind. This part of the frontal brain is responsible for most of our thinking and reasoning. It’s the rule maker of the brain, and the reminder of the rules.

Electrical brain stimulation.

Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). Queen Mary University of London.

Dr. Caroline Di Bernardi Luft was the study’s first author. She hails from Queen Mary’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences. Dr. Luft said, “We solve problems by applying rules we learn from experience, and the DLPFC plays a key role in automating this process.”

She added, “It works fine most of the time, but fails spectacularly when we encounter new problems which require a new style of thinking – our past experience can indeed block our creativity. To break this mental fixation, we need to loosen up our learned rules.”

Dr. Luft teamed up with…

Wallace Stevens on Reality, Creativity, and Our Greatest Self-Protection from the Pressure of the News

Wallace Stevens on Reality, Creativity, and Our Greatest Self-Protection from the Pressure of the News

“A society must assume that it is stable,” James Baldwin wrote in his timeless treatise on the creative process, “but the artist must know, and he must let us know, that there is nothing stable under heaven.” And yet, paradoxically, in the very act of exposing the abiding instability of existence, art moors us to a sense of the eternal and becalms our momentary tumults against the raging ocean that has always washed, and will always wash, the shoreline of the human spirit. The poet Robert Penn Warren captured this beautifully in his meditation on the vital role of art in a thriving democracy, in which he asserted that art “is the process by which, in imagining itself and the relation of individuals to one another and to it, a society comes to understand itself, and by understanding, discover its possibilities of growth.”

A generation earlier, Wallace Stevens (October 2, 1879–August 2, 1955), another Pulitzer-winning poet, examined a complementary aspect of the relationship between culture and creativity in his astonishingly timely 1951 book The Necessary Angel: Essays on Reality and the Imagination (public library), titled after a line from one of Stevens’s most beloved poems: “I am the necessary angel of earth, / Since, in my sight, you see the earth again, / Cleared of its set and stubborn, man-locked set…”

Wallace Stevens

Stevens controverts the notion that the imagination is a counterpoint to reality and instead insists that the two are in essential interplay:

The imagination loses vitality as it ceases to adhere to what is real… There are degrees of the imagination, as, for example, degrees of vitality and, therefore, of intensity. It is an implication that there are degrees of reality.

He points to nobility as a defining characteristic of the imagination — the means by which the creative spirit protects its interior integrity from what he calls “the pressure of reality,” a pressure of immense and almost unbearable intensity today. In a passage of astounding prescience, Stevens writes a decade after the end of of WWII and more than half a century before the present tyranny of the 24/7 news cycle:

By the pressure of reality, I mean the pressure of an external event or events on the consciousness to the exclusion of any power of contemplation.

[…]

For more than ten years now, there has been an extraordinary pressure of news — let us say, news incomparably more pretentious than any description of it, news, at first, of the collapse of our system, or, call it, of life; then of news of a new world, but of a new world so uncertain that one did not know anything whatever of its nature, and does not know now, and could not tell whether it was to be all-English, all-German, all-Russian, all-Japanese, or all-American, and cannot tell now; and finally news of a war, which was a renewal of what, if it was not the greatest war, became such by this continuation. And for more than ten years, the consciousness of the world has concentrated on events which have made the ordinary movement of life seem to be the movement of people in the intervals of a storm. The disclosures of the impermanence of the past suggested, and suggest, an impermanence of the future. Little of what we have believed has been true… It is a question of pressure, and pressure is incalculable and eludes the historian. The Napoleonic era is regarded as having had little or no effect on the poets and the novelists who lived in it. But Coleridge and Wordsworth and Sir Walter Scott and Jane Austen did not have to put up with Napoleon and Marx and Europe, Asia and Africa all at one time. It seems possible to say that they knew of the events of their day much as we know of the bombings in the interior of China and not at all as we know of the bombings of London, or, rather, as we should know of the bombings of Toronto or Montreal.

Photograph by Maria Popova

With an eye to the disorientation of the transitional era in which he is writing — an era perhaps as transitional and disorienting as our own — Stevens examines the familiar helplessness of witnessing reality crumble:

Rightly or wrongly, we feel that the fate of a society is involved in the orderly disorders of the present time. We are confronting, therefore, a set of events, not only beyond our power to tranquillize them in the mind, beyond our power to reduce them and metamorphose them, but events that stir the emotions to violence, that engage us in what is direct and immediate and real, and events that involve the concepts and sanctions that are the order of our lives and may involve our very lives; and these events are occurring persistently with increasing omen, in what may be called our presence. These are the things that I had in mind when I spoke of the pressure of reality, a pressure great enough and prolonged enough to bring about the end of one era in the history of the imagination and, if so, then great enough to bring about the beginning of another.

The imagination, Stevens argues, is our mightiest survival mechanism in such tumultuous times — those endowed with…

Do Creative People Really See the World Differently?

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Symbols matter. Companies spend tons of money and many patient months developing logos that represent the soul of their mission. The idea is to associate that mission with a visual symbol so that every time a consumer views the mark those ideals are inseparable from the graphic.

Could such a symbol affect personal creativity, however? That’s what researchers aimed to find out when briefly exposing over 300 students to the Apple and IBM logos. By design, Apple wanted its brand to suggest creativity, whereas IBM has long been a stalwart of responsibility and integrity.

After subliminally exposing students to each logo researchers administered the unusual uses test, a measure for creativity in which you’re shown an everyday object to test how many different applications you can dream up. Sure, a paper clip binds papers, but would you imagine it as an earring? One measure of the test is that it must be realistic—circumnavigating the planet flying on your magic clip is not an acceptable response.

As it turned out the students who were exposed to the Apple logo scored higher. As marketing and psychology professor Adam Alter writes:

Merely exposing people to a symbol that implies creativity for less than a tenth of a second can cause them to think more creatively, even when they have no idea they’ve seen the symbol.

Creativity is associated with ways of seeing, to borrow a phrase from John Berger, but could our actual visual perception affect creative output? That’s what three Australian researchers tried to find out. Trading course credit for their time, 134 undergrads at the University of Melbourne were tested on binocular rivalry. Using…

How Elon Musk Gains Massive Success by Learning Differently from Everyone Else

There are successful people and then there are extremely successful people. We all know it’s not about luck but more sheer hard work, determination and belief. But in the case of Elon Musk – who has built up four successful multi-million dollar companies – how does he do it?

He’s not only built up these four companies incredibly successfully but they’re all in separate industries – software, energy, aerospace and transportation. Surely this goes against all we’re taught? Shouldn’t we always focus on just one field in order to become the complete expert?

So what is the secret to Musk’s success? The answer lies in his ability to be an expert generalist.

What Exactly Is an Expert Generalist?

The term expert generalist was coined by Orit Gadiesh, chairman of Bain & Co. to describe someone who has the ability to learn and master several different disciplines and skills.

You may have heard the phrase “Jack of all trades, master of none” which implies that by trying to learn many things, you inhibit your ability to master any of them fully. This is how many teachers and mentors have approached the way of achieving success. However, Elon Musk is an example of the opposite and proves that success can come from learning a wide variety of subjects in a deep way and gaining the ability to transfer and apply knowledge to several different fields.

How Being an Expert Generalist Can Bring You More Success

It’s time to break the myth that focusing on one discipline is what gets us the most success in life, especially when it comes to business.

In today’s world, business and the world’s economies are changing at a rapid pace. This means that, to get as much chance of success as you can, you need to be able to quickly adapt to change. This is how expert generalists such as Elon Musk get ahead of the game because they take care of both the breadth and depth of knowledge on many different subjects.

But this isn’t a new concept. Many successful people throughout the centuries have adopted this approach including Picasso, Richard Feymann and Charlie Munger who have all been able to master several,…

Whoever Says Creativity Is Inborn Is Just Giving Themselves an Excuse

What if I told you creative people are found to be more attractive by others? According to a study done by Christopher Watkins,

This may sound great, but there is more to the study than just this. Other factors that come into play include gender and physical appearance. Surprisingly, the effects of creativity are stronger for average looking people than people who are genetically gifted. Creativity is also thought to be more beneficial for men2.

At this point you may be thinking, “HOW DO I MAKE MYSELF MORE CREATIVE!”

Creativity Is Intelligence Having Fun.

What is creativity? Rollo May, the author of The Courage to Create said,

Creativity is “the process of bringing something new into being. Creativity requires passion and commitment. It brings to our awareness what was previously hidden and points to new life,”

As a matter of fact, creativity does not only make one more attractive; creativity also accompanies with many benefits. Below you shall see some of them:

  • Become a better problem solver: creativity allows one to overcome challenge with innovative methods.
  • Save Money: creativity yields inner fulfilment, which reduces the urge to consume.
  • Embrace Freedom: creativity helps one fully engage with him or herself, surpassing all detrimental self-judgement.
  • Relieve Stress: creativity invites us to fully utilise our mind, our hand, and our energy, which awards us contented happiness 3.

There Is a Big Common Misconception about Creativity.

Many people have a misconception about creativity — it is something inborn. If we aren’t born creative, there is no hope. This is not true. Demian Farnworth, a Senior Content Writer at Lutheran Church Extension Fund, says this is not only a…

Osmo Coding Jam game combines programming with music

Osmo has created some of the most creative apps for children with its augmented reality platform for the iPad, and it is launching another such game today called Osmo Coding Jam.

The title incorporates the familiar Osmo system to combine music and computer programming. The system uses a mirror to point the iPad camera in front of the iPad, where it applies computer vision to see blocks that a child puts in front of it. In this case, the blocks are used to program musical notes.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based Osmo believes the rush to teach kids science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) has struck a sour note. The brightest thinkers appreciate art and think creatively, not mechanically. That’s why Osmo has launched a way to learn coding while fostering creativity by making music. In May 2016, Osmo launched its first kids’ programming game, Osmo Coding.

“We wanted to bring creativity to coding,” said Pramod Sharma, the CEO of Osmo, in an interview with GamesBeat. “I see myself as a creative coder. We think the future is about coders and that music is very creative and a very powerful medium. We try to bring them together in this product.”

Above: Osmo Coding Jam brings out the creativity in kids.

Image Credit: Osmo

Thomas Edison played the piano, Albert Einstein played the violin, and recent research found that on average, high school students who studied music appreciation scored better on the SATs, both in the verbal and…

Characteristics of Critical Thinkers and How to Be One

Studies show that critical thinking leads to increased creativity, enhanced work performance, and a lowering of negative life experiences.1

And these are just some of the benefits of critical thinking.

Aristotle said it well: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

What Exactly Is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking covers a wide variety of thought processes.

To help you understand what critical thinking is, take a look at the list below:

  • Analyzing.
  • Evaluating.
  • Interpreting.
  • Problem solving.
  • Questioning.

These traits are common forms of critical thinking.

As an example, imagine that you were seeking a new job or career, and had just started to look at advertised vacancies. In order to choose the most suitable vacancies, you would spend time looking at where the jobs were based, what skills and experience were required, and how much the roles were paying.

All the above actions would be classed as critical thinking. You used analysis, evaluation and (most likely) questioning.

As a further example of critical thinking, consider the way that attorneys work. Firstly, they examine the evidence. Then, they use critical thinking in order to create a plan to win their case (or to settle out of court).

What Are the Recognizable Signs of Critical Thinkers?

Now that you understand what critical thinking is about, I’m sure you’re curious to know how to recognize the signs of critical thinkers.

Let’s take a look…

One major giveaway of critical thinkers is the fact that they tend to be highly successful. This success can be academic, personal or professional. But you can be sure, that whenever you see people achieving big results – they’ll definitely be critical thinkers.

Here are some further signs of critical thinkers:

  • They are creative, innovative individuals.
  • They are fascinated by how things work.
  • They get their news and views from a wide variety of sources.
  • They are always asking questions.
  • They have levelheaded conversations with people they disagree with.

Critical thinkers are successful in life because they are able to analyze issues from different perspectives. This allows them to come up with (and decide) on the best solutions.

If you’re failing to reach your goals in life – then you should definitely begin boosting your critical-thinking skills.

To become adept at critical thinking, you…

Why Some People Are More Creative Than Others

Would you label yourself a creative person? Do you think creativity is something we are born with? Creativity is more than the simple left versus right brain. It is more than your logical hemisphere compared to your creative hemisphere. Creativity and learning takes place when we are able to connect new knowledge with knowledge we were already familiar with. Creativity is something we can all develop. In fact, it has been scientifically proven that creativity can be cultivated.

Prior to the last couple of years, I used to think creativity was something you were born with. I believed one of the myths of creativity and used it as an excuse. Do you associate with any of these common myths about creativity? Common myths:1

  • You are born with it.
  • You have to be right-brained.
  • It falls into your lap.
  • You’ve got to be a little mad.

Everyone has fell victim to at least one of these myths, but anyone can be creative, not just the privileged few. Let’s take a look at how some people embrace this mindset and become more creative than the rest.

They are good at making connections between different ideas.

“Part of creativity is picking the little bubbles that come up to your conscious mind, and picking which one to let grow and which one to give access to more of your mind.” – Nancy Andreasen

Yevgeniy Brikman has an interesting analogy for creativity. He looks at creative thinking as a deck of index cards. He remarks,

“Imagine you have a deck of index cards and that each card has a word or phrase on it. These cards represent the ideas and thoughts that are floating in your head.”2

Try the following with index cards, where each card has a word or phrase on it:

  1. Shuffle the index cards.
  2. Drop them on the floor.
  3. Scan over the cards and see what sentences have formed from the random arrangement of words.

Brikman asserts, “Most of the time, the random permutations will be meaningless. You just have to pick up the cards and return to step 1. However, every now and then, a meaningful sentence or thought will emerge. Sometimes this will be a full solution to a problem – the ‘aha’ moment. Other times, this will be a mere stepping stone from which you gather enough info to add or remove index cards from your deck before returning to step 1.”

They are divergent thinkers.

“We are boxed in by the boundary conditions of our thinking” – Albert Einstein

Creative thinkers are not linear thinkers. In fact, they are divergent or lateral thinkers. They embrace a different way of thinking and attack problems from new angles. Creative people can literally remove their mind from the box. Typically, most people think that you must…

Ancient Robot Creates Modern Art

They say that there’s more to a Jackson Pollock painting than randomly scattering paint on a canvas, and the auction value of his work seems to verify that claim. If you want to create some more conventional artwork, however, but are missing the artistic muse that inspired Pollock, maybe you can put your creative energies to work building a robot that will create the art for you.

[Dane Kouttron] was able to get his hands on an old SCARA robotic arm, and was recently inspired to create a paintbrush-weilding robot…

Just doing it: my year of living creatively

From origami to photography, Londoner Sam Furness challenged himself to attempt a new skill for each month of 2016. Whether to broaden your horizons or simply disrupt routine, he believes everyone can benefit from a creative curiosity-boost

In 2016 I set myself a year-long creative challenge that completely threw a spanner in the works of my spare time. The aim was to discover, be challenged by, and embrace more of the weird and wonderful things us humans do to express ourselves and understand the world we live in.

The rules of the challenge were simple: 1) choose a theme for each month of 2016. It had to be something I knew little or nothing about. January was origami. April was food. July was the EU. October was photography. 2) Spend the first three weeks of each month learning or doing or experiencing absolutely everything I could to do with that theme. 3) And then, in the final week of the month, do or create something authentic with my findings. I called the project 12×16.

January was origami. April was food. July was the EU. October was photography

Why rules? Creative chaos can be a beautiful thing, but it needs boundaries to be productive. So many of us start the new year with a renewed sense of energy and purpose but find ourselves burning out or losing direction after no time at all. I think a lot of people’s good intentions get lost on focusing too much on their end goal and not the process of getting there. It’s easy to forget what an enjoyable, enlightening and transformative experience that can be. The process turned into a kind of self-motivational game; can I learn more and be more productive than the month before?

Paper butterfly dreams in January 2016, ‘origami month’

We’re not conditioned to enjoy, as adults, the thought of being beginners. Over our lifetimes, we tick and cross the list of things we’re ‘good’ and ‘bad’ at, taking some things with us but leaving most behind for someone else to be good at. As children, we give everything a go because we’re curious about the world and don’t fear the consequences of failing to be instantly good at something. We focus on the process of learning and the end goal becomes clear to us as we learn. As adults we hesitate because we feel we should be instantly capable. The fear of feeling vulnerable or looking foolish can very often stop us in our tracks, despite how willing we may be for change.

Over the course of my project, I put myself in these vulnerable situations multiple times every month. I’ve found a lot of power and liberation in being a beginner as an adult.

Reasons to support Positive News

#6: Balance your media diet
Research shows that negative news can lead to mental health issues, while positive news can boost wellbeing, foster community and show how actions can make a difference. Give yourself a Positive News prescription to see good, feel good, do good.

It’s incredibly grounding. Accepting that you have a lot to learn is a valuable lesson in the instant gratification culture in which we live. And it’s a fantastic way to connect with people. Those with experience recognise and respect the courage it’s taken to put yourself in that situation and are willing to impart their knowledge to you, the curious beginner. And the feeling of fulfilment you get from doing something new that you were…