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How Insight Works Essay

1031 words - 5 pages

Many people associate creativity solely with the arts, dance and music, but it is actually everywhere: in science, medicine, astronomy, etc. This fascinating video describes some scientific studies and tests which have the purpose to understand what creativity is, what happens in human brain when people think creatively and how to become more creative.
The first part of the video deals with the concept of insight, which is an important aspect of imagination. The ability to think in a novel way has always been one of the defining features of the human species. Professor Jonathan Schooler and his crew organized some mind games and simple sets of puzzles to test how moments of insights come along. One of these games involved a number of word clues which should help people to solve a problem. Half of these clues were given to the left hemisphere of the brain (commonly associated with logical thinking and language), the other half to the right hemisphere (linked to special awareness and intuition). With this test, Schooler wanted to find out which of the two hemispheres is heavily involved in generating insight. He noted that, when information as flashed to the right visual field, it went immediately to the right hemisphere and vice versa. The result showed that right hemisphere is more sensitive to the hints, thus it is more likely to make the necessary connection that leads to a sudden flash of insight.
The tools of today’s neuroscience enable scientists to see what happens within the brain when it has an insight. Mark Beeman is one of the pioneers of cognitive neuroscience and has found a systematic way to induce lots of insights. He gives three words and asks what other word goes with these all. What he wants to see is if the correct answer comes with a methodical, logical thinking, or if it is the result of an insight. During his experiments in his lab, he uses the electroencephalogram (EEG), as well as the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRi) on volunteers to measure and to record data of their brain activity as they solve this three-word game. The results have shown that the part of the brain where these insights occur is the anterior superior temporal gyrus, present on both sides of the brain. When one has an insight, the right side reacts and its cells branch out, making it possible to put together unconnected ideas and, therefore, to create an insight.
The moments of insight might seem instantaneous, but they are not. Professor John Kounios is interested in understanding the sequence of brain waves that precede an insight. He has found out that, two seconds before, a burst of alpha waves occurs in the back of one’s head, on the right side. Alpha waves are known to be responsible of brain areas’ shutting down, and, in this case, they momentarily shut down the visual cortex and cut off any kind of distraction. In this way, ideas bobble up as insights. Therefore, in order to have the necessary insights to solve problems, one needs...

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