How do new creative ideas form?

We’ve all got it – the ability for creative thinking and to come up with out of the box solutions and new ideas. But for some it is stifled out by our current education system, by worries, the fear of risk taking, and by just the day to day activities of living.

Alizée Lopez-Persem, is a researcher in cognitive neuroscience at the Institut de Cerveau (PARIS BRAIN INSTITUTE).

Alizée explained:

“Creativity can be defined as the ability to produce original and relevant ideas in a given context, to solve a problem or improve a situation. It is a key skill for adapting to change or provoking it.”

Creativity is based on complex mechanisms that we are only beginning to understand. The popular view is that there are two successful phases to creativity:

  • generating new ideas
  • evaluating their potential

How do we evaluate these new ideas and make the choice? That was what the research team wanted to explore.

The team used computer modelling based on three fundamental dimensions that can be modelled using mathematical tools:

  1. exploration, which is based on personal knowledge and makes it possible to imagine possible options
  2. evaluation, which consists of gauging the qualities of an idea
  3. selection, which allows us to choose the concept that will be verbalized

The researchers reproduced them in a computational model – which they compared with the actual behaviour of individuals recruited for the study. Via Paris Brain Institute’s PRISME platform, 71 participants were invited to take free association tests, which consist of matching words in the most audacious way possible. They were then asked to rate how much they liked these associations of ideas and whether they seemed relevant and original.

 Emmanuelle Volle, a neurologist said:

“Our results indicate that the subjective evaluation of ideas plays an important role in creativity.

“We observed a relationship between the speed of production of new ideas and participants’ level of appreciation of these ideas. In other words, the more you like the idea you are about to formulate, the faster you come up with it. Imagine, for example, a cook who intends to make a sauce: the more the combination of flavours seduces him in his mind, the faster he will throw himself on the ingredients! Our other discovery is that this assessment combines two subjective criteria: originality and relevance.

“It all depends on their experience, personality, and probably their environment. Some favour the originality of an idea over its relevance; for others, it’s the other way around. However, preferring either originality or relevance has a role in creative thinking: we have shown that individuals inclined to original ideas suggest more inventive concepts.”

Alizée Lopez-Persem added:

“In the future, we want to define different creativity profiles related to people’s fields of activity. Do you have different creative preferences if you are an architect, software engineer, illustrator, or technician?

“Which environments foster creativity, and which ones inhibit it? Could we modify or re-educate our creative profile through cognitive exercises to match personal ambitions or needs? All these questions remain open, but we firmly intend to answer them.”

Click on this link to access, How subjective idea valuation energizes and guides creative idea generation, published in American Psychologist

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