Understanding How “”Aha”” Happens: Creativity and Your Brain (NYC)

Wednesday, August 09, 2017 7:00 pm - 9:15 pm


7:00 pm - 9:15 pm
Understanding how ""Aha"" happens: Creativity and your Brain (NYC)

Shelley Carson / Harvard University

Modern science now understands how creative ideas happen in the human brain. And by learning how it works, you can learn to do it better. In fact, most  creative methods in use today around the world use the old — and wrong — model of how the brain works. When you ask creative people how they did something, they often feel a bit guilty, because they don't generally perceive they really did anything. It just happened!

Creativity isn't something only scientists and artists enjoy; in fact, all of us use our creative brains every day at home, work and play. Each of us has the ability to increase our mental functioning and creativity, and this session will show you how.

New research shows that being creative can improve your mood and your overall well-being. But can you become more creative? According to Professor Carson, the answer is definitely yes!

Neuroscience has found that there are two creative brain states. One handles problem solving, planning, and reasoning. You use this "pathway" when you're actively focused on a problem or task. Your other pathway comes into play during idea incubation, immersion, and free association. You're in this brain state when you defocus your attention: when you're sleeping, in the shower, in a boring meeting, or your mind is wandering.

So how does knowing about these brain states help you? You can either train yourself to switch your brain state according to your task, or you can structure your tasks to take advantage of your current brain state. The key is to realize that the majority of your creative ideas occur spontaneously. Creative ideas are least likely to occur when you're sitting at your desk in front of a blank document!

Shelley Carson / Harvard University

Shelley Carson is an associate of the psychology department and a lecturer at Harvard University. Her research on creativity has been featured on CNN, the Discovery Channel, the BBC, and NPR. She is author of the award-winning book “Your Creative Brain: Seven Steps to Maximize Imagination, Productivity, and Innovation in your Life,” and co-author of “Almost Depressed: Is Your (or Your Loved One’s) Unhappiness a Problem?” Dr. Carson received the Petra T. Shattuck Excellence in Teaching Award at Harvard.