Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Creative Mind Looks Both Backward & Forward

The Human Mind

The Human Brain:  Kaufman of SciAmer writes: “This hypothesis is in line with current research in cognitive neuroscience. Roberto Cabeza and colleagues found that an extensive network of brain areas were activated when participants viewed personal photos of themselves. This network included regions associated with self-referential processing (medial prefrontal cortex), visuospatial memory (visual and parahippocampal regions), and memory recollection (hippocampus).”
Credit: National Institute for Aging, a branch of NIH, 2008

An article, by Scott Barry Kaufman, in Scientific American looks at the connection between nostalgia and creativity, seeing the former as influential in the latter. So, when individuals look at old family photos and other memoribilia of the past they might be helping themselves become more creative.

Kaufman writes:
Nostalgia may also facilitate creative thinking. In a paper published in 1987, Harvey Kaplan concluded  that nostalgia is a “joyous” experience that facilitates “an expansive state of mind” and “a feeling of elation.” In a more recent study, Shengquan Ye and colleagues asked 280 university students in Hong Kong to write about a nostalgic experience. They found that the students who included more details in their descriptions imagined more uses for a common object (e.g., newspaper). Interestingly, the increase in positive emotion associated with nostalgia did not predict increased creativity, suggesting that the effect was driven more by cognitive than affective factors.
To explain these findings, the researchers discuss the “constructive episodic simulation hypothesis” of Daniel Schacter and Donna Addis. According to this hypothesis, our storehouse of deeply personal memories acts as a source of details for imagining future events in our mind. Perhaps in the nostalgia study, when the students were primed to think of a nostalgic experience, their activated episodic memories were used as a basis for generating more novel ideas.
This hypothesis is in line with current research in cognitive neuroscience. Roberto Cabeza and colleagues found that an extensive network of brain areas were activated when participants viewed personal photos of themselves. This network included regions associated with self-referential processing (medial prefrontal cortex),visuospatial memory (visual and parahippocampal regions), and memory recollection (hippocampus).
Nostalgia has as its prime meaning a return to home, and carries with its a sense of happy sentimentality. Yet, it makes perfect sense, at least to me when considering my personal history, that past memories, notably if they were happy moments, could and would act as a catalyst to future bouts of creativity. It might be the same reason that the human brain tends to often block out, or repress, negative memories, especially highly emotional ones.

So, when we look at old photos, old postcards and even old movies, we form particular associations with them. We do this for many reasons, but one result, the article suggests, is to bring forward a moment of our lives that usually was more simpler and worry-free. When the memories are positive, the mind is freer and more open to explore other ways of thinking about, of viewing, the world around us.

You can read the rest of the article at [SciAmer].

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