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An all-star cast of Big Thinkers-actors Rainn Wilson and Ethan Hawke; composer Anthony Brandt; neuroscientists David Eagleman, Wendy Suzuki, and Beau Lotto; and psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman-share how they define creativity and explain how our brains uniquely evolved for the phenomenon.
According to Eagleman, during evolution there was an increase in space between our brain’s input and output that allows information more time to percolate. We also grew a larger prefrontal cortex which “allows us to simulate what ifs, to separate ourselves from our location in space and time and think about possibilities.”
Scott Barry Kaufman details 3 brain networks involved in creative thinking, and Wendy Suzuki busts the famous left-brain, right-brain myth.
RAINN WILSON: Creativity is absolutely for everyone. I firmly believe this. I think if you’re the driest accountant with the plastic pocket pen protector it’s in how you interact with the world. There’s artistry in everything that we do.
ANTHONY BRANDT: The fact of the matter is we all are born with a creative license. We have this software running in our brains.
DAVID EAGLEMAN: What is it that’s special about the human brain that allows creativity to happen? Because when you look at us compared to all the other species on the earth we have very similar brains. I mean obviously we’re cousins with our nearest neighbors and all throughout the animal kingdom, it’s a continuous family tree, but we’re running around the planet doing something unbelievable. You don’t have squirrels going to the moon or dogs inventing the Internet or cows doing theater plays for one another or any of the gajillion things that we do. What is below all of that? What is the basic cognitive software that’s running in the human brain that takes ideas in and smushes them up and crunches them. It’s like a food processor that’s constantly spitting out new ideas.
SCOTT BARRY KAUFMAN: So, many of you might have heard of the left brain right brain myth about creativity, that the left brain is not related to creativity much at all because it’s really boring and logical and super serious and analytical, and that the right brain is where all the artistic beauty comes out and it’s very poetic. Well, the reality is that creativity involves an interaction of lots of different brain networks that rely on both the left side and the right side of the brain.
WENDY SUZUKI: It really is the most creative people are using both sides of the brain together. So, this is an important concept that the brain is subdivided into two major hemispheres. We have two of each structure, almost all the structures of our brain are paired. So, the idea is well one side of the brain is for certain things and the other side of the brain is important for other things and the one thing we can say for sure is yes language is on the left side of the brain. But for creativity it actually makes more sense to me that with a function so broad as that you would benefit from having the most crosstalk possible between all parts of your brain, in fact that’s what the neuroscience is showing.
KAUFMAN: When you have lots of different parts of the brain that are communicating with each other to solve a certain task then it’s called a brain network. And you find that creativity draws on multiple interacting brain networks. In particular it draws on three brain networks that seem to be absolutely essential to creativity across whatever field it is, whether it’s science or its art. One of those brain networks that is important is what’s called the executive attention network. And the executive attention network allows you to integrate lots of information in your head at one time, hold stuff in your working memory, maintain strategies that you’re currently working on at one time so you don’t forget what your strategy is or forget what you already did and then redo it. The executive attention network it’s also helpful for inhibiting the obvious responses or the first things that comes to your mind. And so, creativity is important to access remote associations so the executive attention network is going to be helpful to inhibit the most immediate obvious things that come to mind. People who are very good improv artists, for…
Read the full transcript at https://bigthink.com/videos/brain-science-of-creativity