The Creative Process - A Two Sided Coin
As we move into the summer months here at the Copenhagen Institute of NeuroCreativity, we are starting a new mini-series of blog entries that will delve into the fascinating processes of creativity. We will be reviewing recent research in the field to explain how studying creativity from a neuroscience perspective can lead to insight and usefulness in a number of fields ranging from education to business and innovation. We are at an exciting point in time where the available investigative research tools and findings from the neurosciences have made it possible for multiple facets of society to benefit from the fast growing field of neurocreativity.
This introductory blog entry will explore what it means to be creative at the most basic level, and how neuroscience research has made it possible to cultivate this process in individuals.
We hope you enjoy.
Creativity is an encompassing term used to describe individuals, thought processes, ideas, and physical products. In the field of creativity research, the term is defined generally as the generation of novel and useful products within a specific context. However, as with any definition of such a complex concept, this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Many people believe that they are inherently not creative individuals, or don't know how to be creative. Creativity though is an innate human ability that through evolutionary circumstance has allowed us to advance the human race to the level it is at today. There is an intricate and often unconsidered relationship that fundamentally encapsulates creativity. It resembles a two-sided coin. On one side is the individual, who through deliberate action on a personal insight develops and shares an idea or product with the world. On the other side (and equally relevant) is the society that receives the new idea in which the individual lives. Based on the specific cultural environment, the idea may (or may not) be perceived as relevant and valuable, ultimately leading to the label “creative.”
An example might help to better illustrate this concept. Picture that the door to your new apartment won't stay open when you are moving boxes in and out, inconveniencing you to open it every time you pass through. You look for a doorstop but cannot find one, but there is a shoe that catches your eye and so you place it in such a way so the door no longer closes on its own. Without even knowing it, you have just made use of the creative process! Through the irregular juxtaposition of two elements – the door and your shoe – you were able to create a novel solution to an experienced problem. However, this solution in the eyes of others may not necessarily qualify as new, valuable, or contributing to the advancement of society. Nevertheless, it is the seemingly mysterious process behind the creativity label that we at CINC are so interested in because on a large scale, intentionally implementing this same process can have big implications.
Before the explosion of neuroscience research, creativity was once considered something of an introspective mystery. Self-reflection on conscious thoughts are insightful yet limited in scope. The tremendous advances in brain imaging technologies and neural network models have now made it possible to explore the unconscious processes leading to creativity, rendering the study not so much an introspective mystery as before but rather a puzzle that investigative tools can help to solve.
At CINC, we explore how the electrical and chemical signals occurring in the brain are used to represent and process information. Even more insightful are the ways that the brain assimilates existing information in novel ways which leads to conscious insight and eventually the production of creative ideas and products. Through our approach, we seek to use our technical understanding to help individuals better understand how ideas are generated, how to act upon them, and why things like brainstorming work so well.
In the next post we will explore how it is that insights, oftentimes bizarre, emerge through the unique way in which groups of neurons in the human brain store information.
-The CINC Team