The Dark Side of Creativity: Original Thinkers Can Be More Dishonest is the title of a provocative paper published precisely one year ago. Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School and Dan Ariely of Duke University presented evidence that highly creative people are more likely to engage in unethical activities, apparently because they are better at finding ways to justify such behavior.
While those who value creativity conceded the logic of that equation, many were reluctant to embrace that uncomfortable conclusion. But newly published research confirms those results, and adds a twist.
In a study conducted by a research team led by psychologist Melanie Beaussart of California State University, San Bernardino, people who behaved ethically also scored lower in creativity. What’s more, creativity scores were also poor among participants who considered themselves ethical—whether or not that perception fit with their actual behavior.
Restrictions aside, the researchers discovered important information about creativity. When the rappers freestyle rapped, activity in the medial prefrontal cortex (which is responsible for self-interested behavior) increased, while activity in the dorsolateral cortex (which regulates executive function), decreased. Also, while the rappers freestyled, the medial prefrontal cortex networked with other areas, including regions responsible for language and the amygdala, which plays a role emotions. And even though Eagle associates movement with freestyling, the brain did not show any increased activity in areas responsible for motor activity.
“We think there is a stronger coupling between motivation, action, language, and emotion,” Braun explains.
CONCLUSION: The next time you're stumped on a creative challenge, head to a bustling coffee shop, not the library. As the researchers write in their paper, "[I]nstead of burying oneself in a quiet room trying to figure out a solution, walking out of one's comfort zone and getting into a relatively noisy environment may trigger the brain to think abstractly, and thus generate creative ideas."
In other words, the science behind procrastination all comes down to how human beings relate to time (which from a physics standpoint I think is a bit skewed anyway – but I’ll save that for another article). There are some legit ways we can fool our brains into not procrastinating though, or at least not procrastinating as much. That’s where the science behind it all comes into play.
In our conversation, we talked about ways that math and art are alike, and how adopting the right mindset can lead to breakthroughs in creativity. Strogatz, who has experimented with making drawings and is coincidentally married to an artist, says the professions definitely share affinities: "We're all trying to express ourselves. We're also struck by the wonder in the world around us." Here are Strogatz's top insights about the creative nature of mathematics, which are relevant to any creative person.
A new study says creative types--writers, in particular--are more likely to suffer from certain kinds of mental illness. The lead researcher discusses the reasons for the link and why we may want to rethink assumptions about sickness and treatment.
Gaze at something green; swig some whiskey; sit outside a box. Find out how these and other tips help bring out our most creative selves.
Chris Lott's insight:
Hang out with sarcastic people. Hearing sarcastic expressions of anger can help our ability to solve creative problems a lot more than just hearing direct anger. That’s possibly because sarcastic people seem less scary. So take the facetious route next time you want some new ideas from a coworker. (Yeah, right.)
"Why does such a simple writing exercise have such a big impact? The answer has to do with the content of the writing itself. Writing reduces people's tendency to ruminate because it provides them with an opportunity to express their concerns. Expressing concerns gives people some insight into the source of their stress, allowing them to reexamine the situation such that the tendency to worry during the actual pressure-filled situation decreases.
Worries are problematic because they deplete a part of the brain's processing power known as working memory, which is critical to successfully computing answers to difficult test questions. Working memory is lodged in the prefrontal cortex (at the very front of our heads, sitting just above the eyes) and is a sort of mental scratch pad that allows people to "work" with whatever information is held in consciousness, usually information relevant to the task at hand. When worries creep up, the working memory people normally use to succeed becomes overburdened. People lose the brain power necessary to excel.
For several decades, psychologists has been extolling the virtues of writing about personally traumatic events in your life, such as the death of a close family member or a difficult breakup. Time and time again, psychologists have found that, after several weeks of writing about a life stressor, people have fewer illness-related symptoms and even show a reduction in doctor's visits. "