Why Abstract Art Stirs Creativity in Our Brains - Facts So Romantic - Nautilus“Creativity is for amateurs. We go out there and we solve problems. We set tasks for ourselves and we solve them.” I think the similarities are really becoming quite obvious. Certainly in the abstract expressionists—the New York group—they all ended up doing very different things when they started doing it, and they did it step-by-step as they moved from figuration to abstraction, becoming progressively more abstract in distinctively different ways.
Persistence and communication skill drive hitsThat is to say: keeping productivity equal, the scientists were as likely to score a hit at age 50 as at age 25. The distribution was random; choosing the right project to pursue at the right time was a matter of luck. Yet turning that fortuitous choice into an influential, widely recognized contribution depended on another element, one the researchers called Q. Q could be translated loosely as “skill,” and most likely includes a broad variety of factors, such as I.Q., drive, motivation, openness to new ideas and an ability to work well with others. Or, simply, an ability to make the most of the work at hand: to find some relevance in a humdrum experiment, and to make an elegant idea glow.
Cycling as a vehicle to creativityIt is all very well to say to yourself that you are not thinking as you wheel serenely along: but you are, and that sure uncertainty of the cyclist’s balance, that unconsciously watchful suspension (solid on earth yet so breezily flitting) seems to symbolize the task itself. The wheel slidders in a rut or on a slope of gravel: at once, by instinct, you redress your perpendicular. So, in the continual joy and disgust of the writer’s work, he dare not abandon that difficult trained alertness. How much of the plain horror and stupidity is he to admit into his picture? how many of the grossly significant minutiae can he pause to include? how often shall he make a resolute fling to convey that incomparable energy of life that should be the artist’s goal above all? These are the airy tinkerings of his doubt; and as he passes from windy hill-top to green creeks and grazings sometimes the bicycle sets him free. He sees it all afresh; nothing, nothing has ever been written yet: the entire white paper of the world is clean for his special portrait of all hunger, all joy, and all vexation.
Nature melts the brain (in a good way!)In a 2012 study, for example, Strayer found that backpackers were 50 percent more creative after they had spent four days out on the trail. They were given several tests of creative thinking—for example, they were presented with a set of words (for example: blue, cake, cottage) and asked to figure out the unifying word (cheese). Upon their return, the hikers performed twice as well on the tests. “People were actually solving the problems more creatively after they had unplugged in nature,” he says.
Keith Richards on creativity under pressureBecause you’ve been playing every day, sometimes two or three shows a day, ideas are flowing. One thing feeds the other. You might be having a swim or screwing the old lady, but somewhere in the back of the mind, you’re thinking about this chord sequence or something related to a song. No matter what the hell’s going on. You might be getting shot at, and you’ll still be “Oh! That’s the bridge!” And there’s nothing you can do; you don’t realize it’s happening. It’s totally subconscious, unconscious or whatever. The radar is on whether you know it or not. You cannot switch it off. You hear this piece of conversation from across the room, “I just can’t stand you anymore”… That’s a song. It just flows in. And also … to provide ammo, you start to become an observer, you start to distance yourself. You’re constantly on the alert. That faculty gets trained in you over the years, observing people, how they react to one another. Which, in a way, makes you weirdly distant. You shouldn’t really be doing it. It’s a little of Peeping Tom to be a songwriter. You start looking round, and everything’s a subject for a song. The banal phrase, which is the one that makes it. And you say, I can’t believe nobody hooked up on that one before! Luckily there are more phrases than songwriters, just about.
How to escape the pull of the status quoOne powerful way to deal with the bias is the reversal test proposed by Nick Bostrom and Toby Ord. Imagine you inherit a family cabin in the mountains. You haven’t spent time there in years, and your family isn’t really interested in weekends at the cabin. Another family member offers to buy the cabin for $100,000. But you hesitate. You’ve got these great memories, and sticking with the status quo lets you keep it. Reverse the choice. Now you have $100,000 in the bank. Would you use that money to buy the family cabin?
In the brain, Apollo and Dionysis work together to create"On the one hand, there is surely a need for a region that tosses out innovative ideas, but on the other hand there is also the need for one that will know to evaluate how applicable and reasonable these ideas are. The ability of the brain to operate these two regions in parallel is what results in creativity. It is possible that the most sublime creations of humanity were produced by people who had an especially strong connection between the two regions," the researchers concluded.
Different runs bring different mindsetsLong runs tend to brew essay or story ideas, but the fast work of training — sprints, hills, lifting weights — simultaneously sharpens and blurs those ideas into actions. Training sharpens ideas by cutting away the chaff that tends to accumulate during that long time on the trail, where the mind can wander; training blurs those ideas to the surreal places where art is made. Since my body craved sleep, I could slip from the rational mind that stifles fiction.
Stanford study finds walking improves creativityThe research comprised four experiments involving 176 college students and other adults who completed tasks commonly used by researchers to gauge creative thinking. Participants were placed in different conditions: walking indoors on a treadmill or sitting indoors – both facing a blank wall – and walking outdoors or sitting outdoors while being pushed in wheelchair – both along a pre-determined path on the Stanford campus. Researchers put seated participants in a wheelchair outside to present the same kind of visual movement as walking. Different combinations, such as two consecutive seated sessions, or a walking session followed by a seated one, were also compared. The walking or sitting sessions used to measure creativity lasted anywhere from 5 to 16 minutes, depending on the tasks being tested. Three of the experiments relied on a "divergent thinking" creativity test. Divergent thinking is a thought process or method used to generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions. In these experiments, participants had to think of alternate uses for a given object. They were given several sets of three objects and had four minutes to come up with as many responses as possible for each set. A response was considered novel if no other participant in the group used it. Researchers also gauged whether a response was appropriate. For example, a "tire" could not be used as a pinkie ring. The overwhelming majority of the participants in these three experiments were more creative while walking than sitting, the study found. In one of those experiments, participants were tested indoors – first while sitting, then while walking on a treadmill. The creative output increased by an average of 60 percent when the person was walking, according to the study. A fourth experiment evaluated creative output by measuring people's abilities to generate complex analogies to prompt phrases. The most creative responses were those that captured the deep structure of the prompt. For example, for the prompt "a robbed safe," a response of "a soldier suffering from PTSD" captures the sense of loss, violation and dysfunction. "An empty wallet" does not. The result: 100 percent of those who walked outside were able to generate at least one high-quality, novel analogy compared to 50 percent of those seated inside.
life in larger communities = higher tolerance for risk?Adami and his team tested many variables that influence risk-taking behavior and concluded that certain conditions influence our decision-making process. The decision must be a rare, once-in-a-lifetime event and also have a high payoff for the individual’s future – such as the odds of producing offspring. How risk averse we are correlates to the size of the group in which we were raised. If reared in a small group – fewer than 150 people – we tend to be much more risk averse than those who were part of a larger community.
uber.la | Focus Yourself: Cutting Away the DistractionsFind your distractions. Learn which ones feed you, charge your energy back up. And eliminate or limit the ones that pull your spirits and motivations down. Today, you still have most of your life ahead of you. But the sooner you discover your energies and contain your passions by capturing the excess energy in your creative process, the further along the path you will be by the time you reach my age.
Is the science of networking the new art?A Gen‑X graphic-artist friend has told me that the young designers she meets are no longer interested in putting in their 10,000 hours. […]10,000 hours is less important now than 10,000 contacts. A network, I should note, is not the same as what used to be known as a circle—[…]the network is a far more diffuse phenomenon, and the connections that it typically entails are far less robust. A few days here, a project there, a correspondence over e‑mail. A contact is not a collaborator. Coleridge, for Wordsworth, was not a contact; he was a partner, a comrade, a second self. It is hard to imagine that kind of relationship, cultivated over countless uninterrupted encounters, developing in the age of the network. What kinds of relationships will develop, and what they will give rise to, remains to be seen.
Amy Pascal haggles with her boss in Japan about a scene in The InterviewIn shot #337 there is no face melting, less fire in the hair, fewer embers on the face, and the head explosion has been considerably obscured by the fire, as well as darkened to look less like flesh. We arrived at this shot (#337) after much cajoling and resistance from the filmmakers.
J. G. Ballard on acidI suppose I’m a medium-to-heavy drinker, but I haven’t taken any drugs since one terrifying LSD trip in 1967. A nightmarish mistake. It opened a vent of hell that took years to close and left me wary even of aspirin. Visually it was just like my 1965 novel, The Crystal World, which some people think was inspired by my LSD trip. It convinced me that a powerful and obsessive enough imagination can reach, unaided, the very deepest layers of the mind. (I take it that beyond LSD there lies nothing.) Imagination is the shortest route between any two conceivable points, and more than equal to any physical rearrangement of the brain’s functions.
J. G. Ballard on preparing to writeWith short stories I do a brief synopsis of about a page, and only if I feel the story works as a story, as a dramatic narrative with the right shape and balance to grip the reader’s imagination, do I begin to write it. Even in the Atrocity Exhibition pieces, there are strong stories embedded in the apparent confusion. There’s even the faint trace of a story in “Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan,” and the other sections at the end of the book. In the case of the novels, the synopsis is much longer. For High-Rise, it was about twenty-five thousand words, written in the form of a social worker’s report on the strange events that had taken place in this apartment block, an extended case history. I wish I’d kept it; I think it was better than the novel. In the case of The Unlimited Dream Company, I spent a full year writing a synopsis that was eventually about seventy thousand words long, longer than the eventual novel. In fact, I was cutting down and pruning the synopsis as I wrote the novel. By synopsis I don’t mean a rough draft, but a running narrative in the perfect tense with the dialogue in reported speech, and with an absence of reflective passages and editorializing.
J. G. Ballard on how he writesEven in the case of a naturalistic writer, who in a sense takes his subject matter directly from the world around him, it’s difficult enough to understand how a particular fiction imposes itself. But in the case of an imaginative writer, especially one like myself with strong affinities to the surrealists, I’m barely aware of what is going on. Recurrent ideas assemble themselves, obsessions solidify themselves, one generates a set of working mythologies, like tales of gold invented to inspire a crew. I assume one is dealing with a process very close to that of dreams, a set of scenarios devised to make sense of apparently irreconcilable ideas. Just as the optical centers of the brain construct a wholly artificial three-dimensional universe through which we can move effectively, so the mind as a whole creates an imaginary world that satisfactorily explains everything, as long as it is constantly updated. So the stream of novels and stories continues . . .
Isaac Asimov's 1959 advice to MIT think-tank on creativityIf a single individual present is unsympathetic to the foolishness that would be bound to go on at such a session, the others would freeze. […]If a single individual present has a much greater reputation than the others, or is more articulate, or has a distinctly more commanding personality, he may well take over the conference and reduce the rest to little more than passive obedience. […] I should guess that no more than five would be wanted. A larger group might have a larger total supply of information, but there would be the tension of waiting to speak, which can be very frustrating. It would probably be better to have a number of sessions at which the people attending would vary, rather than one session including them all. […]It is not what people say at these conferences, but what they inspire in each other later on.)
Users innovateYou can invent the telephone and put it out in the world and say, "This would be fantastic for you playing cello on one end and someone else listening to you playing cello on the other end," but it gets out into the world and people start using it. They say, "That would be a terrible way of using the telephone. But it is really great for calling my grandmother." That is always the case with technology when it gets unleashed into the world. People end up pushing it in directions that the inventors never dreamed of.
[…]Beethoven cunningly derived pieces from a single, simple idea. This is not news — but it’s worth meditating on. Beethoven preferred musical ideas of almost unusable simplicity, things that seem pre-musical, or ur-musical, like chords, or scales — not music, but the stuff music is made of. Imagine a building constructed of blueprints, or a novel based on the word “the.” […]Swafford focuses on a magical aha moment: Beethoven has just figured out how he’ll begin the Fifth Symphony, with a motif we know all too well. “Then something struck him,” Swafford says. “He jotted down an idea in G major . . . the melodic line, virtually intact, of the opening piano soliloquy of the Fourth Piano Concerto.” This other melody is built on the same rhythmic DNA, the same da-da-da-dum, but in place of agitation, you have the most gorgeous benediction, a melody of unbelievable tenderness. […]two of the greatest musical works of all time, born from the same piece of Morse code, a single unit of rhythm that was turned in Beethoven’s mind (at the moment of creation!) to utterly opposing ends.
having the book out in public has already changed my relationship to writing, and not in the ways that I thought it would. I worried that I would become fixated on how the next thing would be received, bringing everyone in publishing and the wider reading world into the room with me, but it has actually made the process more private, more internal. It’s no longer about clearing some imaginary bar of professionalism, no longer about gaining entry into some club. I’ve talked about this with a friend of mine who’s a musician, but putting something out in the world and listening to the cacophony of reactions can actually have the effect of releasing you from what you had imagined others wanted, and in a way giving you back your space. This, for me, has been the healthiest outcome of publishing a book, and something I don’t think I would have gotten without it. Permission, I guess, to no longer ask for permission.
Phillips writes: “Our vision, Freud showed us, what we are able to see, is sponsored by our blind spots; what we are determined not to know frees us and forces us to know something else.” Phillips doesn’t give us the whole Freud, but, if Freud is to be believed, you can never see the whole person anyway. We see what we need to see.
You need to take the time to understand all aspects thoroughly before you try to facilitate your mind-wandering or daydreaming. In other words, don’t go for a walk or hop in the shower or take a nap immediately after getting a new problem. First, reach for that cup of coffee to make sure you don’t miss any details.
It turned out that if the subject looked directly at a word and focussed on it—that is, blinked less frequently, signalling a higher degree of close attention—she was more likely to be thinking in an analytical, convergent fashion, going through possibilities that made sense and systematically discarding those that didn’t. If she looked at “pine,” say, she might be thinking of words like “tree,” “cone,” and “needle,” then testing each option to see if it fit with the other words. When the subject stopped looking at any specific word, either by moving her eyes or by blinking, she was more likely to think of broader, more abstract associations. That is a more insight-oriented approach. “You need to learn not just to stare but to look outside your focus,” Beeman says.
I hate all electronic things that are supposed to help the human being. You don’t smell, you don’t hear, you don’t touch anymore. All our senses are being controlled. At the same time, I am a total imbecile because to have a little iPhone that can take pictures, that can find the nearest hospital, that can tell you the weather in Jakarta — it’s probably fabulous. I’m supposed to be a man of balance, but my state of mind in those things is very unbalanced. I love or I hate.
83% of two dozen radiologists who were searching for a lung nodule didn’t see the white outline of a standing gorilla that researchers had inserted into a computed tomography scan, even though it was 48 times the size of the average nodule, says a team led by Trafton Drew of Harvard Medical School. All of the participants reported seeing the gorilla when, after the experiment, they were shown the CT scan and asked if they noticed anything unusual about it.
You can see this audience effect even in small children. In one of my favorite experiments, a group of Vanderbilt University researchers in 2008 published a study in which several dozen 4- and 5-year-olds were shown patterns of colored bugs and asked to predict which would be next in the sequence. In one group, the children simply repeated the puzzle answers into a tape recorder. In a second group, they were asked to record an explanation of how they were solving each puzzle. And in the third group, the kids had an audience: They had to explain their reasoning to their mothers, who sat near them, listening but not offering any help. Then each group was given patterns that were more complicated and harder to predict. The results? The children who didn’t explain their thinking performed worst. The ones who recorded their explanations did better—the mere act of articulating their thinking process aloud seemed to help them identify the patterns more clearly. But the ones who were talking to a meaningful audience—Mom—did best of all. When presented with the more complicated puzzles, on average they solved more than the kids who’d explained to themselves and about twice as many as the ones who’d simply repeated their answers.