Thursday, January 27, 2011


I've just finished reading 59 Seconds by Richard Wiseman. It's about how we can improve our lives in under a minute using psychology, and all based on actual experiments.

There are lots of chapters but following a post on Katharine's blog about imagination I thought I'd type up a brief summary of some of comments on creativity.

First and most powerfully, it's no surprise to dreamers that the unconscious is the root of creativity. Experiments in creative thinking and puzzle solving have shown that distracting your conscious mind with mathematics or intense word puzzles for 15-20 minutes causes solutions or new ideas to spontaneously appear from your unconscious mind. Distraction of the conscious mind is more effective than relaxation.

One head is better than many. Experiments have shown that groups produce less creative ideas in quantity and quality than individuals. This is for a variety of social factors. If you must work in a group, it's been shown that more creative ideas appear if you change the members around rather than stick to your friends.

Having a plant in the room has been show to increase the generation of original ideas. Pictures or even videos of nature don't exhibit the effect. The colour green has been shown to relax the mind and increase the chance of creative ideas too, whereas red has the opposite effect. Stick with green decor, or go for a walk in the park.

Creativity is rebellion. Seeing the world through the eyes of a rebel encourages creative ideas. In one experiment people were asked to list the attributes of a punk rocker, and another group those of an engineer, then they were all asked to come up with ideas. The punk group came up with more original ideas.


Kathy said...

These are great observations, Mark! Spending time with mathematics is really mind-opening. I used to hate it as a youth, but once I learned to love it the whole world made more sense and my artmaking improved. And I like your point about the limitations of group-think. Little to no originality comes from that mostly because of peer pressure and fear of looking stupid. Interesting post! Thank you.

Mark Sheeky said...

I didn't like maths as school but I was always quite good at it, not that it was a useful skill even for a computer programmer. The stuff I needed to know and later self-taught was taught only in the higher class.

The post there was essentially a summary of the book, so not so much my opinon as Richard Wiseman's look into experiments in creativity. Fascinating. Oddly, in another chapter it turns out that group discussions become exaggerated and extreme in views, perhaps due to the desire to fit in and go with the flow. So discussions become extreme while creativity and reflection is attenuated. This fact made me worry about political meetings!