The more you consciously think, the less creative you are, a new study finds.
The researchers had people playing ‘Pictionary’, a game where you have to try and draw a word.
At the same time their brains were scanned to see which areas were most active, and when.
Professor Allan Reiss, one of the study’s authors, explained the results:
“We found that activation of the brain’s executive-control centers — the parts of the brain that enable you to plan, organize and manage your activities — is negatively associated with creative task performance.
Creativity is an incredibly valued human attribute in every single human endeavor, be it work or play.
In art, science and business, creativity is the engine that drives progress.
As a practicing psychiatrist, I even see its importance to interpersonal relationships.
People who can think creatively and flexibly frequently have the best outcomes.”
Below are some of the pictures that people drew.
The words they were trying to describe are on the left:
Instead of the brain’s executive control centre, researchers found that people drew more creative pictures when the cerebellum was activated.
The cerebellum is an area at the back of the brain which coordinates movement.
Naturally, neuroscientist have not previously connected this area of the brain with creativity.
Professor Reiss explained:
“It’s likely that the cerebellum is the coordination center for the rest of brain, allowing other regions to be more efficient.
As our study also shows, sometimes a deliberate attempt to be creative may not be the best way to optimize your creativity.
While greater effort to produce creative outcomes involves more activity of executive-control regions, you actually may have to reduce activity in those regions in order to achieve creative outcomes.
Dr Manish Saggar, the study’s first authors, summed it up neatly:
“The more you think about it, the more you mess it up.”
The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports (Sagger et al., 2015).
• Read on: How To Be Creative
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
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