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1) Idea generation – the ability to generate novel ideas – is associated with a state of lower cognitive control, which in English,is the ability to turn your mental filters off and have fewer restrictions on your thoughts and behavior.
In research from the 1990’s and more recently in 2011, researchers found that the less filtering a person was doing, the more likely they were to generate new ideas. Researchers found that during idea generation, individuals who generate new ideas typically are showing a state of “lower cognitive control”. This level of brain wave activity corresponds to a “sign of relaxed wakefulness” and basically means that those who are generating new ideas have a less active prefrontal cortex during the time they are generating.
Scientifically speaking, people who are generating ideas typically are showing 8 to 12 hertz ALPHA waves in the prefrontal region of the brain
2) Idea evaluation also involves a mental state in which an individual is able to turn the cognitive filter in the prefrontal cortex off.
According to the research, unlike idea generation, idea evaluation does involve a higher level of activity in the prefrontal region of the brain in which people are filtering a lot of information and data. This evaluation activity requires more focused attention and regulation and is associated with BETA waves dominating the prefrontal region during evaluation which in plain English means, that during idea evaluation, the prefrontal region of the brain is more active.
3) The most creative individuals may be those who are the most cognitively flexible – that is - the most creative individuals are those who can deliberately turn their cognitive filters on or off at the appropriate times.
The implication from this research is that if people can learn to deliberately turn off or on their filters they can be more effective – creatively speaking!
During the last 60 years, additional research in the field of creativity has shown that one of the easiest ways to increase creative output is to separate the generation of ideas from the evaluation of ideas.
Now, the neuroscience is telling us why this might work! Separating idea generation from idea evaluation helps individuals become more cognitively flexible. And who doesn’t want that?
Source: Chrysikou, E. (2012) Your Creative Brain at Work, Scientific Mind, (July/August), pages 24-29.