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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Using Science to Boost Creativity - By Larry Mager (Guest Writer)

When you are in the middle of the creative process, it may seem like something that is mystical or beyond reason. Visions of things you have never thought of before dance in your head and it must just be something magical coming from the universe, or is it? There is actually some very interesting science and reason behind creativity. Understanding exactly what makes you creative and activities you can do to get back to a more creative way of thinking starts with the science behind creativity.

What is creativity?

We often assume creativity is the invention of something unique but this is not really accurate. According to James Webb Young, creativity is less about new ideas and more about the process of pairing ideas as solutions. When you seek creative ideas, you are not inventing anything new but instead, you are combining old elements in a new way. The most creative people are not the ones who invent new elements, they are the type of people who can see different relationships and possibilities between the old elements.

Use puzzles to unlock new possibilities

Once you understand that creativity is all about finding new combinations of old elements, you can stimulate your creative mind by working through some puzzles. Puzzles (or even a good riddle) force you to look at things from different angles which is exactly what you need to do to find your creative energies.

Pick your worst idea and run with it

When you hit a creative block, try a simple exercise with the worst idea you can think of. Even if you know the idea would not work, this is the idea you need to think about. Look at this bad idea as if it were something you had never heard of and brainstorm the most redeeming features of the idea.

Use provocation to mix up your routine

Since creativity is tied to being able to make new connections between old elements, a block in creativity can often be tied to getting stuck in routines. Mix up a routine you have come to see as being almost mechanical to give your brain a jolt to disrupt linear thinking. This forced disruption is called provocation, and simply put, it forces the brain to think beyond the expected.

An example of this exercise would be to change the bus you take to work each morning. Instead of taking a direct route to work, research a more scenic connection and give yourself time to try it out. This small change of pace will force your mind to pay attention in a situation that became too mechanical. It also forces your brain to find different solutions for a familiar problem which is exactly what creativity is.

Vague your way back to a creative filter

You may find yourself stuck behind a creative block when your ideas get so specific that there seems to be no other logical solution for the problem at hand. Having limited yourself to something so specific does not allow your mind to bring you new ideas or links. When you get stuck on an idea, take a step back and do this exercise about a more vague way of thinking.

Clear your mind and find one very wide open topic, perhaps something as simple as “things that are yellow”. Repeat this phrase a few times to stimulate the RAS (reticular activating system) in your brain. This is the system that will now start to focus your brain on everything that is yellow around you.

The RAS is the part of the brain that is responsible for the odd sensation you often get when you notice all of the sudden everyone around you is pregnant after finding out your spouse is expecting or noticing how many Hondas are on the road after purchasing a new one. Allowing yourself to be open to a more general topic will wake up the creative process.

Larry Mager is passionate about the study of how to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. He believes in regular exercise of the brain as a means to do just that. Give yours a workout with some fun, brain-stimulating games at

You can contact him through is email at:

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