The Roots of the Self: Unraveling the Mystery of Who We Are


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Barron examined this fundamental motivation. One thing that became quite clear is that while IQ and academic aptitude were relevant to a moderate degree , they did not explain the particular spark of the creative mind. The Berkeley study also showed that the ingredients of creativity were too complex and multifaceted to be reduced to a single factor. The findings demonstrated that creativity is not merely expertise or knowledge but is instead informed by a whole suite of intellectual, emotional, motivational, and ethical characteristics.

This new way of thinking about creative genius gave rise to some fascinating—and perplexing—contradictions. In a study of writers, Barron and Donald MacKinnon found that the average creative writer was in the top 15 percent of the general population on all measures of psychopathology covered by the test. They appeared to be little more than a loosely assembled bundle of paradoxes and perplexities.

In order to determine how these writers could be simultaneously mentally healthier and more mentally ill than the average person, Barron began to question the value of the tests themselves and the labels we put on individual personalities.

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As Barron began to make sense of what he observed, he came to identify a key consistency among creative people. Namely, these people seemed to become more intimate with themselves—they dared to look deep inside, even at the dark and confusing parts of themselves. Armed with mounting evidence of these deep paradoxes, scientists now generally agree that creativity is not a single characteristic but a system of characteristics, and many theories now emphasize the multifaceted nature of creativity.

Creativity is not so much a sum as it is a multiplication of factors. Well, it may be possible to compensate for lower values on one dimension like IQ by capitalizing on another set of strengths like motivation and perseverance. Indeed, these factors often interact and feed off each other over time, which can amplify levels of creative output. Divergence reflects a nonconformist mind-set and independent thinking and is related to impulsivity and lower levels of agreeableness and conscientiousness.

Finally, convergence refers to the ability to conform, put in the hard effort necessary to exercise practicality, and make ideas tenable. Convergence consists of high conscientiousness, precision, persistence, critical sense, and sensitivity to the audience.

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Individually and together, these diverse qualities encourage the development and expression of creativity. These characteristics come into play during the two broad stages of the creative process: generation—in which ideas are produced and originality is sought out—and selection, which involves working out ideas and making them valuable to society. While characteristics associated with plasticity and divergence are most relevant when generating ideas, convergence is most important during the stage when ideas are being ironed out and made tenable. Considering that creativity involves both novelty and usefulness, this makes a lot of sense.

While exploration and independent thinking can foster the generation of novel ideas, the more practical quality of convergence can help make them useful. Divergence and convergence are just two of many seeming polarities associated with creativity. This is precisely the point. Creative people seem to be particularly good at operating within a broad spectrum of personality traits and behaviors. They are both introverted and extraverted, depending on the situation and environment, and learn to harness both mindfulness and mind wandering in their creative process.

The creative process draws on the whole brain. This complex process consists of many interacting cognitive systems both conscious and unconscious and emotions, with different brain regions recruited to handle each task and to work together as a team to get the job done.


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Some scientists believe that the discovery of this brain network represents nothing less than a paradigm shift in cognitive neuroscience, from a focus on external, goal-directed task performance to the more nebulous yet omnipresent phenomenon of inner experience. All of these activities have to do, in some way, with our engagement with the immediate, concrete world outside our minds, which makes up much of our lives. Nevertheless, external focus is only one part of the creativity puzzle.

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Another critical aspect of creative cognition comes from the imagination network, which is involved in as much as half of our mental lives. The processes associated with this brain network make us each unique and help breathe meaning into our lives. In fact, the functions of the imagination network form the very core of human experience.

The imagination network and the executive attention network cooperate with each other whenever we have to evaluate personal information, from future planning to keeping track of social information, to evaluating a creative idea, to planning and carrying out a project. Researchers have observed this cognitive tango in action through the brain scans of people engaged in their personal creative process—from study volunteers thinking up creative uses for everyday objects like a brick, to published poets generating new verses, to jazz musicians and rappers deep in improvisation.

The imagination and salience networks are highly active, while the more focused executive attention network is relatively quiet. As they further hone and refine their work or engage in collaboration with others, however, the executive attention network becomes increasingly more active. Creative people are particularly good at exercising flexibility in activating and deactivating these brain networks that in most people tend to be at odds with each other.

Guilford, Frank Barron, E. Paul Torrance, Robert J. We are all, in some way, wired to create. We can display creativity in many different ways, from the deeply personal experience of uncovering a new idea or experience to expressing ourselves through words, photos, fashion, and other everyday creations, to the work of renowned artists that transcends the ages. While creativity—expressions of originality and meaningfulness in daily life—does not require suffering, creative work can be highly therapeutic for those who are experiencing hardship. People who engage in a creative lifestyle—perhaps by drifting off in daydreams, taking photographs just for fun, talking passionately about personal goals, writing thoughtful cards or letters to friends and family, keeping a journal, or starting their own business—tend to be more open minded, imaginative, intellectually curious, energetic, outgoing, persistent, and intrinsically motivated by their activity.

They also report a greater sense of well-being and personal growth compared to those who are less engaged in these everyday creative behaviors. Those who derive enjoyment from the act of creating and feel in control of their creative process tend to show greater creativity than those who are focused exclusively on the outcome of their work. As with happiness, it seems that the more you strive for creativity, the less likely you are to achieve it.

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But learning to embrace and enjoy the creative process itself—with all its peaks and valleys—can yield immense personal and publicly recognized rewards. This has important implications for the sorts of attributes and processes we value and reward in society. Repeated engagement of the many networks of creativity are essential for their optimal development. We must offer them the time they need for personal reflection, daydreaming, and inner exploration.

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We must make tasks more meaningful and relevant to their personal goals and help people find and develop their unique purpose and identity. Learning to solve the increasingly complex world problems of the twenty-first century—and to identify the problems themselves—will require creative qualities like originality, curiosity, risk taking, and a tolerance for the ambiguity inherent in the idea that there is not always a single correct solution. Being creative requires the cultivation of a balance of skills—including the ability to learn and memorize—as well as the ability to free oneself from that knowledge and from habitual ways of thinking in order to imagine possibilities that have never been dreamed of before.

Visualizing the Riemann hypothesis and analytic continuation

The Evolution of the Science of CreativitySince the s, there has been a dramatic rise in research on creativity. Between the late s and early s, more than nine thousand scientific papers were published on the subject. The growth of the field of positive psychology—spearheaded by Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in the late s, and carried on by the numerous positive psychologists featured in this book—has also contributed substantially to our understanding of creativity and has shed light on the many ways that creativity contributes to psychological health and well-being.

Together, science and art offer a glimpse into the many things that highly creative people do differently. While this list is by no means exhaustive, people who live the creative lifestyle do a good number of these things, and there are very few people with originality and meaningfulness who do none of them. That article became the basis for this book, which explores in greater depth the same questions of the creative mind and personality.

These seeming contradictions capture some of the polarities that come together in the creative person and that are reconciled through the creative process as the creator makes meaning out of her inner and outer experiences. Creative people learn to harness these widely varying skills, behaviors, and ways of thinking as the situation demands and to bring them together in new and unusual ways to come up with novel ideas and products. The aim of this book is to shed light on the fascinating perplexities of the creative mind and to encourage readers to embrace their own paradoxes and complexities, and in doing so, open themselves up to a deeper level of self-understanding and self-expression.

And so it is here, with the deepest respect for the intimate and complex connections between creativity, personal identity, and meaning, we begin our exploration of the things highly creative people do differently. You can see how he solves his problems. He made his own toys using pieces of wood and string. Miyamoto also created puppets and acted out performances with them, drew cartoons, and explored the mountains and river valley surrounding the village where he lived, in the mountains northwest of Kyoto. As the boy got older, he spent more and more time in nature. One carefree summer when he was around eight years old, Miyamoto stumbled upon a hidden cave.

He passed many happy hours in the dark cavern that summer, letting his imagination roam free. The man who spent his childhood inside an imaginary world of his own making would grow up to share that imagination with the world. After the collapse of Atari in the s, Super Mario Bros. Through Mario and other classic games, Miyamoto inspired the admiration of gamers and aspiring video game creators around the world. His video games are now widely held to be some of the greatest and most profitable ever created. As journalist Nick Paumgarten wrote in a New Yorker profile, Miyamoto always sought to re-create the sense of wonderment he experienced as a child in his games.

Turning the mundane into play and fun, Miyamoto found, could help people get more enjoyment out of their activities, whether it be exercise, working up to the next level of Zelda, or learning a new lesson in school. Readers looking for tips on how to increase creativity will find plenty here.

With Carolyn Gregoire, he puts together the newest scientific findings from the brain, from mental life and from the messy world of emotion to whiz us to the cutting edge of the highest human accomplishments.


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Don't miss it. For the most part, the suggestions are made up: They have no basis in scientific fact. This book is unusual and perhaps unique not only in explaining what creativity is, but also in showing scientifically how people can unlock and develop their creative talents.

The Roots of the Self: Unraveling the Mystery of Who We Are The Roots of the Self: Unraveling the Mystery of Who We Are
The Roots of the Self: Unraveling the Mystery of Who We Are The Roots of the Self: Unraveling the Mystery of Who We Are
The Roots of the Self: Unraveling the Mystery of Who We Are The Roots of the Self: Unraveling the Mystery of Who We Are
The Roots of the Self: Unraveling the Mystery of Who We Are The Roots of the Self: Unraveling the Mystery of Who We Are
The Roots of the Self: Unraveling the Mystery of Who We Are The Roots of the Self: Unraveling the Mystery of Who We Are
The Roots of the Self: Unraveling the Mystery of Who We Are The Roots of the Self: Unraveling the Mystery of Who We Are

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