Monday, October 03, 2011

Stimulating Creativity and the Brain

In the alternative uses task, test subjects are asked to think of alternative uses of everyday objects like "tin" and "umbrella". If we think of unusual uses rather than typical characteristics, the most striking changes are deactivation of the right parietal lobe and activation of the supramarginal gyrus.

Interestingly, the deactivated area in the right parietal lobe is a similar area deactivated in musical improvisation (Berkowitz and Ansari, 2010) and the left supramarginal gyrus has been implicated in motor planning imagery (praxis) and action-based metaphors such as "reach for the stars" (Tell Tale Brain, VS Ramachandran).

Two additional observations were made from the study - first, that allowing people to incubate about their answers increased the likelihood that they'd have more original answers, and being exposed to some of the creative answers of others stimulated their creativity even more (p > 0.001).

For more on the the benefits of group brainstorming read here. Negative effects on creativity can occur because of "group think" and "social loafing", but positive effects result too because the triggering of new associations, addition of new ideas about the nature of the problem (problem scoping), and social motivational factors to generate more possibilities.

So when we give a student an assignment, how much time do we spend brainstorming with others about different possible ways to answer a question or write a report? If the work seems less creative than we would like, maybe we should think more about 'priming the pump.'


  Enhancing Creativity with Cognitive Stimulation pdf

1 comment:

  1. I remember reading a paper where asking the student to think of 5 alternative ways of phrasing the QUESTION led to a much higher rate of creative and innovative answers than those who just brainstormed the question as it was. It's very interesting how the brain works and links different aspects together.
    -Rose

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