Rex Jung, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center

What is creativity?



  • Over 71 million hits on you tube
  • Video illustrates how powerful the mind is—no trick photography
  • Something creative is both novel and useful (the you tube video is "useful" as entertainment as evidenced by the response)

Where are we in terms of research on creativity?
  • We are in the very early days of creativity research
    • The pre paradigm phase (based on Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific revolution)—no theories yet exist for us to hang our research on
    • In other words, be skeptical of people drawing major conclusions about creativity and the brain at this stage

What do we know about creativity?
  • We can think about creative thinking in terms of domains--this helps to refute their being one single type of or path to creativity
    • Emotional vs. Knowledge: Domain of Creativity
    • Deliberate vs. Spontaneous: Processing Mode
    • Different structures of the brain moderate the creativity based on the knowledge domain and processing mode
    • Patients with degeneration in temporal and frontal lobes showed increased creativity
    • Less cortical thickness in the frontal lobe (center of judgment and decision making) is linked to creativity
    • Functional imaging reveals that tasks are very difficult to pin down to particular areas of the brain
  • Conclusions from this: There is some evidence that when our frontal lobes (centers of judgment and decision making) are less active, we are more prone to thinking creatively)


What is the Creative Process as demonstrated by cognitive science?
  • Preparation—putting ideas into your brain
    • Pick one area of focus—put your energy here—opposite of Renaissance man or woman idea
    • Intelligence-the ability to acquire knowledge over time—deductive process in which there are established theories and rules that we follow
    • Inductive problem solving –when you encounter problems that the world’s existing structures of thought cannot address—you have to invent your own

  • Incubation—settling in and making connections with different parts of your brain
    • Transient hypofrontality: frontal lobe needs to be relaxed—on hold
    • Repetitive activities, long walks, something mindless allows for hypofrontality
    • Downtime is important—pausing with knowledge acquisition—free-form environment
    • Internally directed problem space

  • Illumination---Discovery or the a-ha moment
    • creative idea is borne from incubation period (which varies dramatically--can be deliberate or spontaneous)

  • Verification--Is what I produced correct, accurate, useful?
    • Persistence is often required in this phase, thus personality is very important to creativity
    • Critical thinking plays a big role here