Tuesday, April 12, 2005

On Tapping 'Fountains of Unorthodox Ideas'

‘The ease with which we routinely string together appropriate words during a conversation should leave no doubt that our brains are fundamentally creative. What scientists are trying to discover is why the engine of inspiration seems to be always in high gear in some people while others struggle…The right hemisphere’s divergent thinking underlies our ability to be creative. Curiosity, love of experimentation, playfulness, risk taking, mental flexibility, metaphorical thinking, aesthetics—all these qualities play a central role. But why does creativity remain so elusive? Everyone has a right hemisphere, so we all should be fountains of unorthodox ideas. Consider that most children abound in innovative energy: a table and an old blanket transform into a medieval fortress, while the vacuum cleaner becomes the knight’s horse and a yardstick a sword. Research suggests that we start our young lives as creativity engines but that our talent is gradually repressed. Schools place overwhelming emphasis on teaching children to solve problems correctly, not creatively. This skewed system dominates our first 20 years of life: tests, grades, college admission, degrees and job placements demand and reward targeted logical thinking, factual competence, and language and math skills—all purviews of the left brain. The propensity for convergent thinking becomes increasingly internalized, at the cost of creative potential.’
--From a cover story on cognitive research and creativity in the current issue of Scientific American Mind


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