Why great ideas come when you aren’t trying

LB

Peace Love n Pretty Tings
Allowing the mind to wander aids creativity

History is rich with 'eureka' moments: scientists from Archimedes to Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein are said to have had flashes of inspiration while thinking about other things. But the mechanisms behind this psychological phenomenon have remained unclear. A study now suggests that simply taking a break does not bring on inspiration — rather, creativity is fostered by tasks that allow the mind to wander.

The discovery was made by a team led by Benjamin Baird and Jonathan Schooler, psychologists at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The researchers presented 145 undergraduate students with two 'unusual uses' tasks that gave them two minutes to list as many uses as possible for everyday objects such as toothpicks, clothes hangers and bricks.



After the two minutes were over, participants were given a 12-minute break, during which they rested, undertook a demanding memory activity that required their full attention or engaged in an undemanding reaction-time activity known to elicit mind-wandering. A fourth group of students had no break. All participants were then given four unusual-uses tasks, including the two that they had completed earlier.

Those students who had done the undemanding activity performed an average of 41% better at the repeated tasks the second time they tried them. By contrast, students in the other three groups showed no improvement. The work will be published shortly in Psychological Science1.

“We’ve traditionally found that rapid-eye-movement sleep grants creative insight. That allowing the mind to wander does the same is absolutely fascinating. I think they are on to something really interesting here,” says Sara Mednick, a psychologist at the University of California, Riverside.

“This finding really plugs a hole in the literature,” agrees John Kounios, a psychologist at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Why great ideas come when you aren
 

Maruka

Qualified Mixologist
Like some of the worlds best inventions came from accidents or just by chance. Example glue, Many products from soybeans example soy paint and latex... Good research
 

Nica

SAINTSational
It's true... It's happened in various aspects of my life, work, food, music

I would come up with songs while driving... I would actually pull over and record it on my phone so I don't forget. But when I decide to actually sit and write lyrics...it doesn't always come so easily.

Same with recipes. I would randomly get light bulb moments on how to use certain ingredients and how to bring out certain flavors.
 

LB

Peace Love n Pretty Tings
sometimes you need to change focus and put your mind on other things, for solutions to come.
-when I am stuck, I have to do something physical to disengage my mind then its easier to be creative or figure something out.
 

Nica

SAINTSational
Not sure driving is considered an undemanding activity.
In that case it can be looked at that way. I'm driving a familiar road..literally just cruising so I'm relaxed in essence... certainly not think about anything in particular so my mind is free to wander.
 
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LB

Peace Love n Pretty Tings
In that case it can be looked at that way. I'm driving a familiar road..literally just cruising so I relaxed in essence... certainly not think about anything in particular so my mind is free to wander.
if a route is familiar you can do it on auto pilot. Lord knows there were many times I would arrive at my office and not recollect the entire drive there. lol
 

Verb

Registered User
sometimes you need to change focus and put your mind on other things, for solutions to come.
-when I am stuck, I have to do something physical to disengage my mind then its easier to be creative or figure something out.
you disappoint me......but for 10,000 credits i will teach yuh wah dem psychology not saying
 

LB

Peace Love n Pretty Tings
you disappoint me......but for 10,000 credits i will teach yuh wah dem psychology not saying
From one general comment about myself, you feel say I disappoint you? :kicks

You can school me if you like but I'm not giving you any credits. You could be a lousy teacher for all I know.
 

Verb

Registered User
From one general comment about myself, you feel say I disappoint you? :kicks

You can school me if you like but I'm not giving you any credits. You could be a lousy teacher for all I know.
don't want ya credits juss a josh with ya....

just think of the right side and the left side hemisphere and you have the ansa to how great ideas comes when we are not trying..
 

LB

Peace Love n Pretty Tings
don't want ya credits juss a josh with ya....

just think of the right side and the left side hemisphere and you have the ansa to how great ideas comes when we are not trying..
See? You nah teach me anything new :grin:

yes that is the underlying factor in the above study. I agree.
 

Taj

Loyalty to Loyalty
hope you don't mind i read this today and felt it was related to ur original post


The Busy Trap The 'Busy' Trap - NYTimes.com


If you live in America in the 21st century you've probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. It's become the default response when you ask anyone how they're doing: "Busy!" "So busy." "Crazy busy." It is, pretty obviously, a boast disguised as a complaint. And the stock response is a kind of congratulation: "That's a good problem to have," or "Better than the opposite."

Notice it isn't generally people pulling back-to-back shifts in the I.C.U. or commuting by bus to three minimum-wage jobs who tell you how busy they are; what those people are is not busy but tired. Exhausted. Dead on their feet. It's almost always people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed: work and obligations they've taken on voluntarily, classes and activities they've "encouraged" their kids to participate in. They're busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they're addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.

Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren't either working or doing something to promote their work. They schedule in time with friends the way students with 4.0 G.P.A.'s make sure to sign up for community service because it looks good on their college applications. I recently wrote a friend to ask if he wanted to do something this week, and he answered that he didn't have a lot of time but if something was going on to let him know and maybe he could ditch work for a few hours. I wanted to clarify that my question had not been a preliminary heads-up to some future invitation; this was the invitation. But his busyness was like some vast churning noise through which he was shouting out at me, and I gave up trying to shout back over it.

Even children are busy now, scheduled down to the half-hour with classes and extracurricular activities. They come home at the end of the day as tired as grown-ups. I was a member of the latchkey generation and had three hours of totally unstructured, largely unsupervised time every afternoon, time I used to do everything from surfing the World Book Encyclopedia to making animated films to getting together with friends in the woods to chuck dirt clods directly into one another's eyes, all of which provided me with important skills and insights that remain valuable to this day. Those free hours became the model for how I wanted to live the rest of my life.

The present hysteria is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life; it's something we've chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it. Not long ago I Skyped with a friend who was driven out of the city by high rent and now has an artist's residency in a small town in the south of France. She described herself as happy and relaxed for the first time in years. She still gets her work done, but it doesn't consume her entire day and brain. She says it feels like college - she has a big circle of friends who all go out to the cafe together every night. She has a boyfriend again. (She once ruefully summarized dating in New York: "Everyone's too busy and everyone thinks they can do better.") What she had mistakenly assumed was her personality - driven, cranky, anxious and sad - turned out to be a deformative effect of her environment. It's not as if any of us wants to live like this, any more than any one person wants to be part of a traffic jam or stadium trampling or the hierarchy of cruelty in high school - it's something we collectively force one another to do.

Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day. I once knew a woman who interned at a magazine where she wasn't allowed to take lunch hours out, lest she be urgently needed for some reason. This was an entertainment magazine whose raison d'être was obviated when "menu" buttons appeared on remotes, so it's hard to see this pretense of indispensability as anything other than a form of institutional self-delusion. More and more people in this country no longer make or do anything tangible; if your job wasn't performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book I'm not sure I believe it's necessary. I can't help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn't a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn't matter.

I am not busy. I am the laziest ambitious person I know. Like most writers, I feel like a reprobate who does not deserve to live on any day that I do not write, but I also feel that four or five hours is enough to earn my stay on the planet for one more day. On the best ordinary days of my life, I write in the morning, go for a long bike ride and run errands in the afternoon, and in the evening I see friends, read or watch a movie. This, it seems to me, is a sane and pleasant pace for a day. And if you call me up and ask whether I won't maybe blow off work and check out the new American Wing at the Met or ogle girls in Central Park or just drink chilled pink minty cocktails all day long, I will say, what time?

But just in the last few months, I've insidiously started, because of professional obligations, to become busy. For the first time I was able to tell people, with a straight face, that I was "too busy" to do this or that thing they wanted me to do. I could see why people enjoy this complaint; it makes you feel important, sought-after and put-upon. Except that I hate actually being busy. Every morning my in-box was full of e-mails asking me to do things I did not want to do or presenting me with problems that I now had to solve. It got more and more intolerable until finally I fled town to the Undisclosed Location from which I'm writing this.

Here I am largely unmolested by obligations. There is no TV. To check e-mail I have to drive to the library. I go a week at a time without seeing anyone I know. I've remembered about buttercups, stink bugs and the stars. I read. And I'm finally getting some real writing done for the first time in months. It's hard to find anything to say about life without immersing yourself in the world, but it's also just about impossible to figure out what it might be, or how best to say it, without getting the hell out of it again.

Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration - it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done. "Idle dreaming is often of the essence of what we do," wrote Thomas Pynchon in his essay on sloth. Archimedes' "Eureka" in the bath, Newton's apple, Jekyll & Hyde and the benzene ring: history is full of stories of inspirations that come in idle moments and dreams. It almost makes you wonder whether loafers, goldbricks and no-accounts aren't responsible for more of the world's great ideas, inventions and masterpieces than the hardworking.

"The goal of the future is full unemployment, so we can play. That's why we have to destroy the present politico-economic system." This may sound like the pronouncement of some bong-smoking anarchist, but it was actually Arthur C. Clarke, who found time between scuba diving and pinball games to write "Childhood's End" and think up communications satellites. My old colleague Ted Rall recently wrote a column proposing that we divorce income from work and give each citizen a guaranteed paycheck, which sounds like the kind of lunatic notion that'll be considered a basic human right in about a century, like abolition, universal suffrage and eight-hour workdays. The Puritans turned work into a virtue, evidently forgetting that God invented it as a punishment.

Perhaps the world would soon slide to ruin if everyone behaved as I do. But I would suggest that an ideal human life lies somewhere between my own defiant indolence and the rest of the world's endless frenetic hustle. My role is just to be a bad influence, the kid standing outside the classroom window making faces at you at your desk, urging you to just this once make some excuse and get out of there, come outside and play. My own resolute idleness has mostly been a luxury rather than a virtue, but I did make a conscious decision, a long time ago, to choose time over money, since I've always understood that the best investment of my limited time on earth was to spend it with people I love. I suppose it's possible I'll lie on my deathbed regretting that I didn't work harder and say everything I had to say, but I think what I'll really wish is that I could have one more beer with Chris, another long talk with Megan, one last good hard laugh with Boyd. Life is too short to be busy.

(Anxiety welcomes submissions at anxiety@nytimes.com.)

Tim Kreider is the author of "We Learn Nothing," a collection of essays and cartoons. His cartoon, "The Pain - When Will It End?" has been collected in three books by Fantagraphics.
 

Nica

SAINTSational
I can identify with a lot in this article at different points in my life. Last year around this time I was so busy that started getting anxiety attacks for the first time in my life. That's when I knew I wasn't about that life....and I stayed busy until the Doctor said I was sick...and I still stayed busy... until I had another attack and said... Fock it..I'mm go do what I love.
 

Taj

Loyalty to Loyalty
I can identify with a lot in this article at different points in my life. Last year around this time I was so busy that started getting anxiety attacks for the first time in my life. That's when I knew I wasn't about that life....and I stayed busy until the Doctor said I was sick...and I still stayed busy... until I had another attack and said... Fock it..I'mm go do what I love.
yep esp at work
you look at ppl crazy like... the day will go on xyz will be accomplished if i'm not here, hell you can make a decision too the world will not fall apart. And guess what if something does go wrong its still not the end of the world.

Too often ppl look at certain mindsets and approaches as slacking off when its really just keeping stuff in perspective.
 

LB

Peace Love n Pretty Tings
good read Taj. And very timely. lol

I was speaking to my friend today who was calling me from her mini-vacation in Vancouver. She had asked me to do a road trip with her a few weeks ago, but I was mumbling about being too busy to to take a break. Now I was regretting it since she was sitting in a cafe having a nice little break and I was complaining to her about the work on my desk. I realized none of it was worth it and was mad at myself for not making relaxation a priority.

so we had this great discussion about building in breaks and down time in our work schedules on a regular and consistent basis instead of waiting until you burn out or feel like you are about to burn out and then book a vacation. You cant stay focused and on top of your work game if you dont give yourself some space to just be idle and re group.
 
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