The Neuroscience of Creativity, Flow, and Openness to Experience | Scott Barry Kaufman

It seems appropriate that human creativity is connected to a neurological alliance of opposing forces. It’s as if the executive and default networks are normally in conflict, like little children competing for attention or ancient warlords fighting for dominion over the world. It very well could be their fate to remain forever in conflict, never at peace. But legend has it that, in times of great need, they will temporarily put aside their differences and join together to serve a higher purpose. It is in the midst of these legendary endeavors that the true power and wisdom of the creative force is revealed…

In reference to a study on differences in neural activity during creative generation and creative evaluation, Kaufman explains that:

Creative evaluation was associated both with recruitment of the executive and the default network at the same time… [F]or most people these two networks are competing with each other… [F]or most people the more that you’e engaged in the world, the quieter your default network. And the more your default network is active and your inner stream of consciousness — like you’re daydreaming, you’re thinking about yourself, you’re in your own world — for most people, when that’s engaged… this executive attention network is deactivated. But something seems to be going on differently with creative people.

Based on their findings, they concluded… “While creativity is observed across a variety of fields and human endeavors… what creative individuals may share in common is a heightened ability to engage in contradictory modes of thought, including cognitive and affective, and deliberate and spontaneous processing.”

Study after study is now showing that creative people do engage contradictory brain networks.


The Neuroscience of Creativity, Flow, and Openness to Experience | Scott Barry Kaufman