A little over a year ago I posted about the role that working and long-term memory have on the learning “what ifs”. Wouldn’t you know it, a year and a bit later and I’m reading an article in Scientific American Mind titled Switching on Creativity (Snyder, Ellwood, Chi) that takes brain research on another part of the brain, in this case the left anterior temporal lobe, and makes a case for why some of our long term memories may be inhibiting our ability to derive novel solutions.
Once I got past the déjà vu moment, I went back and re-read what I’d said in those early days of blogging. In my post I focused on research involving the Basel Ganglia and the role that “Gating” plays in allowing-in the potential for new physical movements. Obviously the research continues, and it appears that scientists are getting deeper into the processing aspects of thinking, as well as the integration and role of each of the brain’s functional domains. The different thinking constellations are slowly starting to take shape.
Say what you will about the link between autism and genius creativity (comments about the article were somewhat skeptical), one thing in the article truly stands out. We need time to develop the memory bank of information upon which to make thoughtful predictions, while concurrently we need to develop the skill to reconcile, let go, Un-learn, from the past if we want to be able to solve the yet unsolved. The article argues that “Mindsets” play a key role in how we interpret the world around us. When it comes to arriving at a novel solution we need to override our instinctual bias for conceptual thinking for more literal thinking. This means suspending (temporarily) our appreciation for the role that context plays in our lives. Reductionism and contextualism are curious and co-dependent bedfellows in the creative genius suite.