Definitions

When I was in public elementary school (P.S. 103), my fifth-grade teacher Ms. Carole tried to increase our Brooklyn vocabularies, which consisted primarily of four-letter words, by asking us to define words. One day she asked me to define the word loquacious. I remember saying to her, "I know what it means but I cannot tell you now." She, of course, said, "If you knew what the word means you would be able to give me the definition." About 35 years later I saw a retired engineering professor who was probably suffering with Alzheimer's disease. To test his naming I gave him the Boston Naming Test (Goodglass & Kaplan, 2000). The test consists of a series of 60 drawings of objects that range from common (e.g., bed) to rare (e.g., abacus). This patient scored extremely well on this test, correctly naming 59 of the 60 objects. These results suggested that this degenerative disease did not destroy the memories or representations of the word sounds that are associated with these objects. In contrast, if you put two of these pictures before him (e.g., bed and abacus) and asked him to point to one of these objects ("Point to the object in which you would sleep."), he would frequently point to the incorrect object. Although he could repeat sentences, he did not understand conversations, and when he spoke spontaneously he used well-articulated and correct English words, but his sentences had no meaning. In our clinics we see other patients who, unlike this man, cannot name many of these pictures, but in a roundabout manner (circumlocution) they can describe these objects and understand conversations. Observing these two different types of patients led me to believe that the brain, like a dictionary, contains several independent stores of word knowledge. When you look up a word in a dictionary, there is a phonological description of how the word sounds. Following this, there is an explanation of the word's meaning. There is a place in the left hemisphere of the brain that stores memories of how words sound. This store is called the phonological lexicon. Although this phonological lexicon stores word-sound knowledge, it does not store the meaning of these words. There is, however, another place in the left hemisphere that stores meanings, a conceptual-semantic field, but does not contain information about the phonological composition of words. Had I known in fifth grade what I know now, I would have told Ms. Carole that I have a lexical representation of the word and I know it is a good English word, but I do not have a semantic representation of this word. In the fifth grade I confused familiarity with understanding. She was correct: I did not know what the word loquacious meant.

In this book I write about creativity, but until I started to read more about this construct I am not sure I fully understood what this term meant. Behavioral scientists and laymen often use psychological terms such as attention, emotion, and creativity. Most people feel that they know what these words mean, but these terms are often difficult to define. Many books and articles have been written about creativity, but most of them never offer a definition. Before we discuss the neurological basis of creativity, I will attempt to define this word. Webster's Dictionary (Soukhanov & Ellis, 1988) defines creative as having the ability to create. It defines create as "to bring into being . . . or to produce." Pregnant women bring children into being, and people produce products in factories, but neither of these acts is what we mean when we discuss creativity. A second definition of create is "to produce through artistic effort." This definition appears accurate, but scientists, inventors, business people, and others who are not artists can also be creative. Another definition of creative is "marked by originality." Unfortunately, I do not believe any of these definitions fully capture what we mean by this term that we use to describe the work done by many of our well-known scientists, authors, composers, and artists. It is true that creative people often produce original works, but there are many original paintings, sculptures, novels, poems, scientific theories, and inventions that are original but not very creative.

A person who is very creative, and well recognized for his or her creativity, is sometimes called a genius. The term genius, however, has many definitions. Samuel Johnson, the founder of the first English dictionary, wrote that "the true Genius is a mind of large general powers" (Simonton, 1999). People who score more than 130 or 140 on an intelligence or IQ test are sometimes called geniuses. Lewis Terman from Stanford University performed one of the most famous studies of high intelligence. Terman (1954) collected a group of children who scored very high on IQ tests and identified these children as geniuses. These highly intelligent children were followed as they matured to adults. Most of them turned out to be very successful, but this group did not have many people who were noted to be extremely creative. One of the children who was tested by Terman, but not included in this group because his IQ was lower than the criteria set by Terman, was William Shockley. Shockley later won the Nobel Prize in physics because of his invention of the transistor. Thus, it appears that many people who have very high IQs do extremely well in school and may be successful in life, but many of these people with high IQs are not very creative, and there are many extremely creative people who do not have extremely high IQs.

In chapter 2 I further discuss the relationship between intelligence and creativity. As I discuss in chapter 3, many people who have been considered to be geniuses have learning disabilities. It is doubtful that these people with verbal or math learning disabilities would have scored higher than 140 in IQ testing. Two of perhaps the most creative scientists in the modern era, Einstein and Darwin, demonstrate the relationship between learning disability and creativity. Einstein had trouble with learning to read (developmental dyslexia) and in doing arithmetic (developmental dyscalculia). In his autobiography Darwin wrote that, compared with his younger sister, he was very slow to learn, and his teachers considered him as a very ordinary boy who was below the common standard in intellect. Children with developmental language disorders including dyslexia often have problems learning foreign languages. Like Einstein, Darwin might have had a developmental language disorder because he wrote in his autobiography that he was incapable of mastering any language. In addition, he states that even as an adult he was not quick witted. When reading, he had trouble fully understanding the meaning of the text and, to understand these works fully, he had to read books repeatedly. There is a society called Mensa that boasts that to be a member one must be a genius with an IQ higher than 130. It is doubtful that people such as Einstein, Darwin, and Shockley would have applied for membership, but if they had, and their membership had been based on their IQs, they might have not been admitted.

Several dictionaries, such as Webster's, define genius as "the possessor of an inclination or talent." Most intelligence tests assess a variety of skills. For example, the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (Wechsler, 1981) assesses domains such as language (e.g., definitions), visual-spatial skills (e.g., block design), and working memory (digit-span and digit-symbol tests). There are high-functioning autistic people (savants) who have much better working memories than do normal people but have low IQs because they perform poorly on other parts of this test. There are children with developmental language learning disorders who often perform much better on the visual-spatial tests than they do on the verbal tests. To be creative, a person has to have skills and knowledge in the domain in which she or he is creative, but in other domains his or her skills may be average or below average. Most important, the possession of special skills or talents does not ensure that a person will use these skills in a creative manner.

Francis Galton (1869/1978) in his classic book Hereditary Genius defined genius as eminence or enduring reputation. In his book Origins of Genius (1999), Dean Simonton supported this definition, but noted that although eminence is the criteria, this eminence should be associated with creativity rather than leadership. The reason he excluded leadership is not clear, because many leaders have been very creative. Simonton also likes this definition because it avoids the problem of the "so-called unrecognized genius." And according to Simonton (1999), "A scientific article that no one cites or a musical composition that no one performs cannot qualify as a creative product." Howard Gardner, who has a strong interest in creativity, has written several books that deal with this subject. In one of his more recent books, Intelligence Reframed, Gardner (1999) appeared to agree with the position of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1996), who suggested that creativity does not emanate from the mind or brain of an individual but rather depends on communal judgment. Although from a historical perspective he might be correct that it is society that decides who is declared a creative genius, creativity as defined here is the product of an individual's brain and not the judgment of society. Recognition or eminence does not directly depend on the level of creativity. During their lives many artists who are now considered geniuses, such as Van Gogh, were not recognized or eminent. Does that mean that only after their death they became geniuses but were not geniuses when they lived? What would happen if Van Gogh were never discovered or if all his paintings were destroyed? Would he be any less of a genius? Thus, based on the previous discussion, there are no clear criteria for a creative genius. In addition, many creative acts are performed by people who never achieve eminence, and although some might consider many of these acts minor, it is important to learn about and understand the brain mechanisms that allow creative acts, large or small, because the difference between major innovations or what Thomas Kuhn (1996) called paradigmatic shifts and minor creative acts may be a matter of degree rather than type.

My goal in writing this book was to learn about the brain mechanisms that might account for creativity. Eminence is something that society bestows on someone who has been creative, and the purpose of this book is not to learn how society makes these decisions. In addition, almost every human is capable of creative acts. Although some are recognized by large populations, others are recognized only by some family members or friends and some are recognized by no one, not even the person who performed the creative act. Although few people would call these latter examples of creative people geniuses, it is my purpose to discuss the brain mechanisms that might account for creative behavior, both great and minuscule. It is, however, well-known that some people perform acts that are more creative and of higher quality than the creative acts of other people, and, thus, I also discuss the differences between people.

As I briefly mentioned, many psychologists have noted that a person's full-score IQ does not entirely predict his or her creativity (also see chapter 2) and several psychologists searched for another psychometric method of predicting creativity. Guilford (1967), who introduced the psychometric approach to predicting creativity, thought that divergent thinking was a critical element in creative thinking, thus he developed Alternative Uses Test, in which participants devise alternative uses of common objects, such as a brick. Other tests of divergent thinking include (a) the titles task, in which participants are asked to provide titles for a plot; (b) the consequences test, in which participants are scored by the number of consequences and their novelty; (c) projective tests, such as the Rorschach Inkblot Test and the Thematic Apperception Test, in which the number of original responses are counted; (d) anagram tests, in which participants are presented with words whose letters are scrambled and must find the word as quickly as possible; and (e) the word rearrangement test, in which participants are provided with 50 words and they have to use as many of these words as possible to tell a story. On the basis of Guilford's work, E. Paul Torrance (1974) developed a test battery called the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking. In addition to the Alternative Uses Test of Guilford, one of the subtests in Torrance's test asks how a product can be improved. Another subtest shows the participants a scene and the participants write out questions that they would like to ask about this scene. These tests are scored by originality

(the rarity of the responses), fluency (the number of relevant responses), flexibility (the variety of responses), and elaboration.

Torrance (1988) conducted validity tests by giving this test to children in high school and then following the participants until they were adults (i.e., 12 years after the tests had been given). He then assessed the quality and quantity of their creative achievement, using blinded judges as raters. Torrance found that these test scores significantly correlated with measures of creativity and that these creativity tests were much more predictive than were IQ scores. Critics of this psychometric approach note that a robust discriminative and predictive validity has not been clearly demonstrated (see Plucker & Renzulli, 1999, for a review and for additional references). Although there are many suggestions as to why this test might not have robust predictive validity (e.g., creativity is domain specific), the Torrance test came under heavy criticism because the skills that it is measuring are not considered to assess the critical dimensions of creativity (Amabile, 1983) and it does not assess some of the processes that we define as creativity in this chapter. Creativity, as defined in this book, is a combination of divergent and convergent thinking. When presented with data that is explained by a series of ad hoc theories (e.g., the Ptolemaic planetary system) the creative thinker (e.g., Copernicus) had to diverge from this theory, develop a new theory, and then provide the converging evidence to support this theory (e.g., the solar system theory of Copernicus and Galileo).

To gain an understanding of nature, one has to be creative, but understanding and creativity are not synonymous. Perhaps one's means of finding a definition of creativity is to make a list of famous creative people whose work led to a greater understanding of nature and then learn how his or her work is similar. This list could include people such as Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, and Einstein. All these people were scientists. Some people would define science as nothing more than the collection of facts; after all, that is what many of us did in our science classes. Although some people working in scientific endeavors do little more than collect facts, the creative scientist's analysis of facts allows him or her to gain an understanding of nature and to develop testable predictions. Thales of Miletus (ca. 580 bce) was perhaps the first to suggest that there must be unity behind what appears to be plurality, and the creative scientist is one who discovers unity in the variety of nature.

There are many reasons why creativity is important to society. People have always had the desire to control nature. Humans desire to control nature so that we can meet our needs (food and water), prolong our life and the lives of people for whom we care, control our fears, and reduce pain and suffering. In the medieval era, magicians searched for a spell that they could cast over nature to control its power. In the absence of control, religious zealots ask the Creator to change nature according to their requests. History has taught us, however, as noted by Jacob Bronowski (1972), that "man masters nature not by force but by understanding."

In the second half of the 20th century, the advance in medicine that overall might have influenced our health the most was the discovery of antibiotics. Paul Ehrlich, who received the 1908 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, introduced the basic concepts of this work. Ehrlich suggested that medical investigators search for "magic bullets," or synthetic compounds, that would kill the infectious agents that cause diseases without causing serious damage to the person who has the disease. Ehrlich pioneered the systematic study of the structure of synthetic drugs and their biological effects. He introduced the first successful treatment of syphilis when he introduced arsenic treatment (arsenic 606 or salvarsan). Ehrlich's theories, however, really came to fruition with the work of Alexander Fleming, who discovered the first antibiotic, penicillin. Chemotherapeutic agents that are used to treat cancer use the same principles, but many of these agents cause serious damage to the people who are treated with them and have been, in most conditions, only a modest success.

In addition, chemotherapeutic agents and antibiotics do not cure degenerative diseases, and much of the human suffering that we now see in our clinic is related to these degenerative diseases. In the future, many diseases, such as cancer and degenerative diseases, will probably have genetic treatments, and thus, in the next several decades, one of the sciences that may influence our lives the most is genetics. Genetic research started with the work of Gregor Mendel. During the 19th century many monks made copious records of natural events and stored this information in their notebooks and ledgers. Most of these records were never read by anyone other than the monks who collected these data. Because most of these data did not lead to a better understanding of nature, they had little or no influence on science. One of these monks collecting data, however, was Gregor (Johann) Mendel. Mendel had grown up on his father's farm where he worked in the orchards. After being ordained he attended the University of Vienna and wanted to be a high school teacher. He took the teacher's certification examination several times but repeatedly failed, getting his lowest mark in biology. Mendel lived in a monastery that had a small garden, where he planted peas. Mendel observed that some peas looked different from other peas. Some were tall and others short. Some had wrinkled seeds and other had rounded, smooth seeds. Peas, like people, reproduce by a sexual union when a sperm fertilizes an egg cell and a seed is formed. Mendel collected facts by breeding and crossbreeding these peas because he wanted to learn if he could predict the height and seed type based on how the parents looked (pheno-type). Because he could eventually predict a pea's phenotype based on its parents, he suggested that phenotypic traits are controlled by heredity and that heredity was lawful. He thought that each pea seed receives two controlling elements for each trait. These elements are now called genes. One of the elements comes from the sperm and the other the egg. If both of these genes carry the same characteristic (e.g., tall) the pea will be tall. If each parent provides the seed with two different genes (e.g., one tall and the other short), then one of these two will determine the phenotype. This gene is called the dominant gene. The one that does not determine the phenotype is called the recessive gene. If one looks at a tall plant, one cannot know if this plant has two tall genes (homozygote) or one tall gene and one short gene (heterozygote). If a heterozygote plant that has one tall gene and one short gene gives off an egg or sperm, this egg or sperm can have either a short or a tall gene. If this plant gives off a tall gene, its offspring will be tall, but if it gives off a short gene, the offspring can be either tall or short, depending on the genotype of the other parent.

We can see from this example that Mendel was able to see unity in the variety of nature. He made observations, formed hypotheses, and then started to perform experiments based on these hypotheses. Just as Mendel's peas need fertile soil to grow, creativity often requires a fostering environment. Fortunately, the monastery where Mendel performed his research contained a rich library on horticulture, farming, and botany. He also had many colleagues who were interested in his findings and encouraged him. After his pioneering discoveries, Mendel was elected to be the abbot of his monastery, and this concluded his scientific productivity.

Scientists like Mendel develop scientific theories to help explain the means by which phenomena that appear to be random are actually orderly and lawful. In his book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Kuhn (1996) stated, "Discovery commences with the awareness of an anomaly, i.e., with the recognition that nature has somehow violated the paradigm-induced expectations that govern normal science." Thus, the observation of an anomaly by a scientist suggests that the scientific theory that attempted to explain the order in a system is inadequate and a new theory that accounts for this anomaly must be devised. The development of an entirely new theory based on the awareness of anomalies would be what Kuhn called a "paradigmatic shift."

Although this discussion, so far, has primarily addressed scientific creativity, scientists are not the only creative people. Painters such as Van Gogh, Picasso, and Rembrandt; composers such as Beethoven, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky; writers such as Vonnegut, Fitzgerald, and Steinbeck are also creative. Coleridge, as quoted by Bronowski (1972), provided an explanation of artistic creativity that is similar to the one discussed about scientific creativity: Artistic beauty is "a unity in variety."

When I first read this definition of artistic creativity I had some trouble understanding what this meant, but then I recalled listening to a conversation between fine artists when I was sophomore in college. I was a chemistry major who wanted to be a theoretical chemist. I met a wonderful artist, Aviva, whose world and thinking was very different from mine. During one college break we met some of her artist friends in a coffeehouse in Greenwich Village. Between listening to beat poets, who often sounded like Lawrence Ferlinghetti reciting his A Coney Island of the Mind, these painters got into a discussion about the most difficult part of painting. Although I expected them to discuss technical problems, they seemed to agree that the most difficult part of painting is knowing when a painting is completed. I was naive about oil painting, and I thought, Why is this difficult? When you have covered the entire canvas you have completed the painting. Luckily, I listened to them speak rather than offering my opinion because in their conversation they started to speak about "closure."

I was reluctant to ask any questions during these artists' conversation, but later that evening, while taking the F train to Aviva's home in Queens, I asked her what she and the others meant by closure. She asked me what I thought it meant, and I told her that initially I thought a painting was complete when the entire canvas was covered. Before I could tell her that I understood this naive concept was incorrect, she asked, "Is a novel complete when the author runs out of pages? No, the novel is complete when the story has been told. When people use oils they often paint over areas they previously painted. Closure is when the painting is complete." I told her that her explanation was circular. She said, "Tomorrow let's go to the Met. I will show you."

The next day we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and fortunately the Met was having an exhibit of the impressionists. One of the first paintings she showed me was Renoir's The Bathers. She showed me that although each individual figure in the painting was complete, together the women formed an oval shape that both complemented each woman's shape and tied all their figures together. She also showed me how different patches of color complemented each other. She then asked me if I thought the painting would have been better had Renoir painted more of the scenery around these women. I shook my head from side to side. She asked, "If he added more women or left out one of the women, would the painting be better?" Again I shook my head and said "No." She then said, "See, the picture has closure." In retrospect I think she was trying to illustrate what Coleridge so succinctly stated, that artistic beauty is "a unity in variety."

Renoir's and the other impressionists' paintings we saw that day were beautiful, and although each had its different style, all had unity in variety, or what she termed closure.

After we left the impressionists exhibit, Aviva took me to a room that had modern paintings. Although I had no problems seeing the beauty expressed by the impressionists, I did have some trouble understanding why people thought that these paintings were beautiful. She told me that she thought I did not think these paintings were beautiful because they were not representational. She explained that modern art freed the artist from the representational constraints. Artists did not have to paint someone or something but could be free to use forms and colors as they wished and still achieve closure. I, like many other people, still have trouble seeing the beauty in nonrepre-sentational art. I think Bronowski (1972) attempted to address this issue when he wrote,

How slipshod . . . is the notion that either art or science sets out to copy nature. . . . Science like art is not a copy of nature but a recreation of her. We remake nature by the act of discovery. . . . And the great poem and the deep theorem are new to every reader and yet are his own experience because he himself re-creates them. They are the marks of unity in variety; and the instant when the mind seizes this for itself, in art or in science, the heart misses a beat.

Although most great artists have never studied the brain and how it functions, they appear to have implicit knowledge about how the brain functions and they use this knowledge when painting, allowing the people who view their art to obtain closure. For example, Banich, Heller, and Levy (1989) noticed that most paintings are right-left asymmetrical. These investigators wanted to learn if the right-left position of the objects in the painting made a difference in how people would judge the quality of the painting. They photographed many paintings by respected artists. These painting, however, were not well-known to the general population. They made slides from these photographs and showed them to people who had never seen these paintings before the study. They showed one half of the participants a slide of each painting as portrayed by the artist and the other half of the participants saw a mirror image of each painting, so the right-left was reversed and the objects on the left in the actual painting were now on the right and vice versa. They asked the participants to judge how well they liked each painting they saw on the screen. Banich's group found that, in general, most people liked the painting more when it was shown as it had been painted by the artist than when viewed right-left reversed. When the investigators analyzed how the mirror-image slides of the paintings were different from the slides that depicted the painting as painted by the artist, they noticed that when there were multiple objects in a painting, the major object would usually be on the right side of the canvas. When looking at a painting, like reading a sentence, most people scan from left to right. Some people have thought that we probably scan in a left-to-right direction because that is the way we are taught to read and write, When reading or writing Semitic languages such as Hebrew or Arabic, however, people read from right to left, but when these people scan their environment or perform acts other than reading and writing, they scan left to right just like people who read and write European languages. When scanning paintings in the natural left-to-right direction, a viewer who sees the major or dominant object of the painting before seeing what led up to the dominant object might feel that not seeing these antecedents detracts from their preparatory value. One can liken it to having fore-play after the climax. If a climax comes too early in a book, symphony, or painting, these works of art can lose their closure and the aesthetic sense of fulfillment that one gains from having everything come together.

Margaret Livingstone (2002), who is a neuroscientist at Harvard and performs vision research, wrote a wonderful book called Vision and Art. In the book she gives other examples of artistic creativity. For example, on page 38 of the book there is a copy of Monet's painting titled Impression Sunrise. In this painting the setting sun appears to shimmer when it reflects off the water. While the sun reflecting off the water is painted orange, the water is painted a greenish blue. The sun and the water are different colors, but the sun appears to shimmer because the sun and the water have the same amount of luminance (the amount of light that is reflected back to the eye). To demonstrate that the reflectance of the sun on the water and the water itself are of equal luminance, Livingstone took a black-and-white photograph of this painting. Black-and-white photos show only differences in luminance, and in this photograph she demonstrated that the sun is almost not visible in the reflection off the water. White reflects much more light than gray, and gray reflects more light than black. Livingstone noted that it is primarily change in luminance (and not color) that allows us to detect objects, see their shapes, and know their location.

She also noted that the neural system that detects color is located in a different part of the brain from the part that detects luminance. In addition, the parts of the brain that determine locations are in the dorsal portions of the occipital and parietal lobes (see Figure 1.1), and the parts that process color are in the more ventral portions of the occipital lobes. The portions of the brain that determine location derive most of their information from changes in luminance, not color. Thus, because the sun is of equal luminance, this part of the brain has difficulty determining the sun's location, and so the sun appears to shimmer on the water.

Some of the impressionists must have also known (most likely intuitively) that luminance and color were independent, thus they could produce shadowing and depth by increasing and decreasing luminance independent of color. This knowledge allows the artist to represent an image and even give it depth without having to use the object's actual colors. With this freedom they could select a color based on aesthetic values, while maintaining the representational qualities of the painting.

Livingstone gave another example of the creativity of great artists when she wrote about Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa. Art historians have repeatedly commented about Mona Lisa's facial expression, which appears to change, making her appear as if she is alive. In her book, Livingstone quoted E. H. Gombrich, who stated in his book, The Story of Art,

What strikes us first is the amazing degree to which Lisa looks alive. . . . Like a living being, she seems to change before our eyes.. . . Sometimes she seems to mock at us, and then again we seem to catch something like sadness in her smile. All this sounds rather mysterious, and so it is; that is so often the effect of a great work of art.

Livingstone noticed that when she focused on Mona Lisa's mouth she seemed to have a serious expression, but when she focused on another part of the picture, that smile that so many people have written about became apparent.

The eye's best acuity is when images fall in the center of the retina in a region called the fovea. When images fall on parts of the retina that are not part of the fovea; there is a loss of acuity; the farther away from the fovea these images land on the retina, the poorer the acuity. Thus, when one looks directly at Mona Lisa's mouth, one can see the fine details of her lips, but when one looks at a different part of the painting, one cannot see the fine details of her lips and, instead of

Figure 1.1. Diagram demonstrating the lateral view of the brain. (A) demonstrates that the parts of the brain that determine spatial location are located in the dorsal (top) portions of the occipital and parietal lobes (dorsal stream) and the parts that determine identity are in the ventral portions of the temporal and occipital lobes (ventral stream). (B) demonstrates that the parts of the brain that process color are in the ventral medial portion of the occipital lobes. MI = primary motor cortex; SI = primary somatosensory cortex; AI = primary auditory cortex; and VI = primary visual cortex.

Figure 1.1. Diagram demonstrating the lateral view of the brain. (A) demonstrates that the parts of the brain that determine spatial location are located in the dorsal (top) portions of the occipital and parietal lobes (dorsal stream) and the parts that determine identity are in the ventral portions of the temporal and occipital lobes (ventral stream). (B) demonstrates that the parts of the brain that process color are in the ventral medial portion of the occipital lobes. MI = primary motor cortex; SI = primary somatosensory cortex; AI = primary auditory cortex; and VI = primary visual cortex.

seeing the precise lateral extent of her lips, one fuses the shadow of her cheeks with the lateral portions of her lips. This increase of lateral extent makes her look like she is smiling.

Studies in our laboratories (see Heilman, Nadeau, & Beversdorf, 2003, for a review) have demonstrated that whereas recognizing a specific person is mediated by the ventral ("what") temporal-occipital system, recognizing an emotional expression depends more heavily on the more dorsal ("where") system (see Figure 1.1). When using peripheral vision, which has poor acuity, we can localize objects in the environment and detect their movement. Hence, when these facial images do not fall on the fovea, the dorsal ("where") system might be better at detecting emotions.

Artists often suggest that working in certain mediums is more difficult than working in others. For example, it might be easier to sculpt a model from clay than chisel a work from marble. Similarly, some artists think it is easier working with oil paints than watercolors. The reason clay modeling and oils might be easier than chiseling and watercolors is that in the former mediums artists can change their work, but the latter mediums give little opportunity for change. Making changes, and keeping those changes that enhance the goal and removing those changes that detract from the goal, might be considered a process similar to that proposed by Charles Darwin to explain evolution. Campbell (1960) and Simonton (1999) suggested a Darwinian approach to creativity that includes blind variation and selective retention. Modeling with clay and painting with oil paints allow more variation and selective retention than does painting with watercolors or sculpting with stone using a hammer and chisel. This Darwinian metaphor of creativity might account for some aspects of the creative process, but in biological systems genetic mutations are random, and survival determines what mutant genes will be transmitted to the offspring. In the creative process, however, although some solutions might be better than others, the development of a creative work cannot be entirely explained by random variation and selective retention. If so, how many pieces of marble would Michelangelo have to sculpt before he decided to keep his masterpiece, David? This theory also does not explain why the same cognitive systems that allow selective retention cannot also influence the boundaries of variation.

The major problem with the Darwinian postulate of creativity as espoused by Campbell (1960) and Simonton (1999), however, is that in biological evolution it is survival that retains and propagates the best genetic programs, but in creative endeavors it is not entirely clear what survival means. Certainly, with some creative inventions, pragmatic utility (designing a better screwdriver) ensures survival, and, because beauty enriches the beholders' quality of life, we ensure the survival of great works of art. But these pragmatic and aesthetic survival mechanisms cannot explain why theories such as those of Copernicus, which had no pragmatic value for hundreds of years, survived.

In his book, Consilience, Edward O. Wilson (1999) wrote about what he called the "Ionian Enchantment." According to Wilson, this term means "a belief in the unity of sciences—a conviction, far deeper than a mere proposition, that the world is orderly and can be explained by a small number of natural laws." Wilson called this the Ionian Enchantment because the roots of this concept go back to the 6th century bce and are attributed to Thales of Miletus (one of the Aegean cities in western Asia Minor that were part of the Ionian Confederation). Many of the greatest physicists, such as Einstein, believed not only that the universe is orderly and lawful ("G-D doesn't play dice") but also that what appears to be diverse phenomena often share the same physical laws. Although the laws of electromagnetism, radiation, and gravity appear specific for each force, Einstein and others recognized that there are also similarities (e.g., the force decreases as a function of distance) and they attempted to develop a unified field theory "to find the thread that links." Artistic creativity and scientific creativity require different skills and talents, but there are also some elements that both forms of creativity share. In this book I write about how creativity in different domains might be mediated by different brain mechanisms, but I also attempt to develop consilience by discussing the brain mechanisms shared by all creative acts.

Helmholtz (1896) and Wallas (1926) suggested that creativity has four components: preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification. In the first stage, preparation, a creative person acquires the skills and knowledge that allow that person to develop creative works. For example, Einstein developed superb skills in physics and math before he made his great discoveries, and Picasso learned to draw forms and mix colors before he painted his masterpieces. Eysenck (1995) in his book, Genius, noted that before you can solve a problem you need to recognize a problem, and he believes there is a stage of problem finding. He noted that to find a problem a person must have extensive knowledge in the field where the person wants to find a problem. Darwin's son, when describing his father, noted that he had a quality of mind that appeared to be very important in the making of scientific discoveries. Charles Darwin thought that exceptions were important, and he never let exceptions pass unnoticed. Eysenck would have called this behavior "problem finding." I have often told my research fellows that you have to know almost everything there is to know in a domain before you know the questions that must be asked.

Having extensive knowledge in a domain also allows investigators to find anomalies, and anomalies allow a person to recognize that prior investigators have not entirely found the thread that unites. Problem finding, however, is still part of the preparation stage.

One of the best examples of Pasteur's dictum that chance favors the prepared mind ("Dans les champs de l'observation, le hazard ne favorise que les esprits prepares."), is the story of Alexander Fleming. One of the greatest advances in medicine in the 20th century was the discovery of antibiotics. Although some believe this discovery was made entirely by accident, it was a discovery made by a prepared mind. Alexander Fleming, a Scottish physician, was interested in the clinical aspects of infectious diseases and antiseptics and was actually performing bacteriological research. Fleming was growing the virulent bacteria staphylococci in his laboratory. These bacteria were being grown in little, clear, glass plates called petri dishes. Fleming was not a meticulous person. He left his laboratory for a few days and did not properly store these cultures. He also left his laboratory window open, and the petri dishes with staphylococci remained uncovered. When he returned to his laboratory he noticed that a mold had been blown in through the window and landed in a petri dish with the staphylococci. In those areas where the mold landed the bacteria were dead. The mold was penicillium, and this phenomenon led to the discovery of antibiotics. This finding, to use Kuhn's term, was an anomaly, but it was the "prepared mind" of Fleming's that recognized the importance of this phenomenon.

Knowledge alone might not be adequate for creativity. There are many brilliant people with large stores of knowledge in a domain who never develop a creative work. It could be argued that these people might have not made great discoveries because they were not in a position to see critical accidents of nature. Unexplained and anomalous phenomena, however, are abundant in all domains, and these "whispers of nature" are all around us, but the prepared mind needs more than knowledge to hear these whispers.

Creativity—the ability to understand, develop, and express in a systematic fashion novel orderly relationships—requires that the brain manipulate stored knowledge. Wallas (1926) called the process in which people subconsciously manipulate knowledge "incubation." The solving of a problem Wallas called "illumination." Wallas's terms of incubation and illumination have received much criticism. For example, Weisberg (1986) suggested that creativity does not require great leaps (e.g., illumination) and that the processes that lead to many great discoveries might not be subconscious incubation, but rather a series of conscious steps. Even according to Wallas, illumination, rather than being an independent factor, appears to be the culmination of the incubation process. Thus, instead of discussing incubation and illumination as independent processes, we will call the development and understanding of new principles "creative innovation." Creative innovation is based on either the conscious or the unconscious manipulation of knowledge. This incubation process can lead to the development of a hypothesis that might be a great leap, which Kuhn called a "paradigmatic shift," or a small leap, which Kuhn called "normal science." A hypothesis that is the product of creative innovation can be tested by either an accident of nature or a devised experiment that is part of the verification process. It is possible that Fleming discovered that the penicillium mold killed the staphylococci because he had already developed the hypothesis that in nature there are natural agents that can kill bacteria.

In contrast to Helmholtz (1896) and Wallas (1926), Sternberg and O'Hara (1999) suggested that creativity requires a confluence of several distinct resources: intellectual abilities and knowledge in the domain in which one is creative (which Wallas includes in the preparation stage), as well as thinking styles, motivation, and environment. The next chapter contains a discussion of the preparation stage, which is heavily dependent on intelligence and acquired knowledge.

Adult Dyslexia

Adult Dyslexia

This is a comprehensive guide covering the basics of dyslexia to a wide range of diagnostic procedures and tips to help you manage with your symptoms. These tips and tricks have been used on people with dyslexia of every varying degree and with great success. People just like yourself that suffer with adult dyslexia now feel more comfortable and relaxed in social and work situations.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment