What America Needs to Be Free and Fit, Is Diverging and Then CON-verging:

16 07 2010

Cognitive science that says creativity is diverging and then CONverging:

“There is never one right answer. To be creative requires divergent thinking (generating many unique ideas) and then convergent thinking (combining those ideas into the best result). . .

All around us are matters of national and international importance that are crying out for creative solutions, from saving the Gulf of Mexico to bringing peace to Afghanistan to delivering health care. Such solutions emerge from a healthy marketplace of ideas, sustained by a populace constantly contributing original ideas and receptive
to the ideas of others. . .

Creativity isn’t about freedom from concrete facts. Rather, fact-finding and deep research are vital stages in the creative process. . . .

The new view is that creativity is part of normal brain function. Some
scholars go further, arguing that lack of creativity–not having loads of it–is the real risk factor. In his research, Runco asks college students, “Think of all the things that could interfere with graduating from college.”

Then he instructs them to pick one of those items and to come up with as many solutions for that problem as possible. This is a classic divergent-convergent creativity challenge. A subset of respondents, like the proverbial Murphy, quickly list every imaginable way things can go wrong. But they demonstrate a complete lack of flexibility in finding creative solutions. It’s this inability to conceive of alternative approaches that leads to despair. Runco’s two questions predict suicide ideation-even when controlling for preexisting levels of depression and anxiety.

In Runco’s subsequent research, those who do better in both problem-finding and problem-solving have better relationships. They are more able to handle stress and overcome the bumps life throws in their way. A similar study of 1,500 middle schoolers found that those high in creative self-efficacy had more confidence about their future and ability to succeed. They were sure that their ability to come up with alternatives would aid them, no matter what problems would arise.”

Frisky cock of the snook to Thinking Parent Paul D. for the research . . .

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3 responses

16 07 2010
Crimson Wife

Didn’t Daniel Pink devote several chapters in his book A Whole New Mind to this several years ago? An excellent read for those of you who haven’t already done so.

17 07 2010
JJ

From EDGE dot org, following, “Here is an unfortunate truth: today’s mainstream ideas about human and artificial thought lead nowhere.
We are trapped by assumptions that unravel as soon as we think about them”:

Creativity has always been fascinating. Cognitive psychologists generally agree that creativity happens when a new analogy is invented. When your mind connects two things that aren’t usually connected — an infant bird’s first flight and a crack in a tea cup, to use a Rilke example — you have a new analogy, and a basis for seeing the world in a new light. . .

Most new analogies lead nowhere, but occasionally they reveal something important. Creativity doesn’t operate when your focus is high; only when your thoughts have started to drift is creativity possible. We find creative solutions to a problem when it lingers at the back of our minds, not when it monopolizes attention by standing at the front. You can’t make yourself fall asleep; nor can you make yourself have a creative inspiration (in the way you can make yourself solve an arithmetic problem).

Sleep and creativity happen only when your thoughts drift beyond your control.

. . . How do we invent new analogies? This is a major unsolved problem of cognitive science. Often, remembered and re-experienced emotions are the key to novel, unexpected analogies. Emotion summarizes experience. If the subtle emotion you happen to feel on the first warm, bright day of spring (an emotion that has no name) is similar to the emotion you felt the first time you took a girl to the movies, this particular emotion might connect the two events; and next year’s first warm spring day might cause you to remember the girl and the movie.

No computer will be creative unless it can simulate all the nuances of human emotion.

We tend to think of emotions in a few primary colors: happy, sad, angry…. But our real emotional states are almost always far more subtle and complex. How do you feel when you’ve hit a tennis ball hard and well, or driven a nail into a plank with two perfect hammer blows? When you first re-enter, as an adult, the school you attended as a child? When you spot the spires of Chartres on the horizon, or your son’s girlfriend reminds you of a girl you once knew? Or the day turns suddenly dark and a storm threatens, or your best friend is about to make a big mistake but you can’t tell him?

Emotion is the music, the score or soundtrack, that accompanies life; emotions are as distinctive as musical phrases. Just as a snatch of music might bring to mind some long-ago scene, a re-experienced emotion can make us remember a different time and place.

But here the analogy breaks down. A song or phrase might be associated purely by accident with a certain experience. But an emotion is caused by the experience, and summarizes in one feeling an entire, complex scene. An emotion encodes an experience.

We can’t understand literature properly unless we know that different works are composed at different “focus levels” (as magnetic tapes are recorded at different speeds). We must read at the correct focus level or “tape speed.” Kafka is a famous case. His intention, he said, was to write about his “dreamlike inner life.” He meant it literally; we can understand his works only as examples of the dream as a literary form or genre. . . .

Low-focus genres are especially important to ancient literature. Jacob’s all-night struggle in Genesis 32 can best be understood as an ancient example of the dream genre (as the medieval philosopher Maimonides knew). Exodus 4:24-26 — perhaps the most difficult passage in the whole Bible — can only be understood as an example of the nightmare genre, which Kafka revived.

Epic, tragedy and romance are literary forms with their own typical structures; so are prophecy, dream, nightmare.

In all this, we have kept to the straight and simple path of common sense. Now we can describe, in rough and simple terms — “folk psychology” terms — the operation of human thought.

Imagine two entities, Consciousness and Memory. Each corresponds to certain physical structures in the human body. But we are interested in the piano sonata, not the piano. The sonata’s structure is real, although it is not physical. (In modern terminology we might call it a “virtual structure.”) The piano has its own structure. Our topic is the sonata of thought, not the grand piano of the brain.

We can picture the tidal process of human thought in terms of Consciousness and Memory. Imagine a small circle inside a bigger one: at maximum focus, Memory (the small circle) is wholly contained within Consciousness (the large one); and Consciousness is surrounded in turn by external reality. You are conscious of memory within you and reality outside you. You are in conscious control of your thinking and remembering.

At minimum focus, Consciousness is the small circle, wholly surrounded by Memory. Memory comes between consciousness and external reality; consciousness is shut off like a castle by its moat. You are conscious only of internal, imaginary reality.

As focus-level falls, the two circles gradually trade places.

And this is the daily, tidal rhythm of the human mind. . .

— David Gelernter

19 07 2010
JJ

Favorite Daughter is raving about Inception, which I haven’t seen yet but suspect deals with the same larger theme:

Visit To The Imaginarium Of Leonardo DiCaprio

. . .For those who (somehow) haven’t heard: The much-ballyhooed Inception takes place in a world where bandits like Cobb can steal, or “extract,” secrets from the minds of the rich and powerful as they dream, then sell them to the highest bidder. Via “inception,” crooks can also insert new ideas into the subconscious. That means DiCaprio’s character spends much of the film drifting in and out of different dream worlds.

“He’s been to places that people in the waking world haven’t experienced yet,” the actor explains.

Anybody seen Inception yet and care to chime in — CHRIS?? 😉

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