Design practise in context 2, ‘Eureka Moment’ – How can we improve our creativity?

Theres nothing more satisfying than a ‘Eureka’ moment. The moment you finally have an idea to push a brief forward, the moment you suddenly have a flash of inspiration, theres no better feeling. All your worries can be pushed to one side and you can finally let your creative juices to flow. But why do we get these sudden ‘Eureka’ moments? With the latest neuroimaging technology researchers can actually peer inside our brains and witness the creative spark as it happens. Will this mean scientists will soon have the power to make us more creative?

Everyone at some point in their life has experienced a ‘Eureka moment’ but I bet they dont know where the name come from. I was interested in the history so I did some external research. my research told me ‘The Eureka effect is named after the myth that the Greek polymath Archimedes, having discovered how to measure the volume of an irregular object, leaped out of a public bath, and ran home naked shouting “eureka” (I found it). Archimedes was asked by the local king to detect whether a crown was pure gold, or if the goldsmith had added silver. During his trip to the public bath, he noticed that water is displaced when his body sinks into the bath, and that the volume of water displaced equals the volume of the body immersed in the water. This means that he can measure the density of the crown, and compare it to a bar of pure gold. This story is thought to be a myth, because it was first mentioned by the Roman writerVitruvius nearly 200 years after the event, and because the method described by Vitruvius would not have worked.’

The Eureka effect was first described by Pamela Auble, Jeffrey Franks and Salvatore Soraci in 1979. The subject would be presented with an initially confusing sentence such as “The haystack was important because the cloth ripped”. After a certain period of time of non-comprehension by the reader, the cue word (parachute) would be presented, the reader could comprehend the sentence, and this resulted in better recall on memory tests.

Professor Stellan Ohlsson believes that at the beginning of the problem-solving process, some salient features of the problem are incorporated into a mental representation of the problem. In the first step of solving the problem, it is considered in the light of previous experience. Eventually, an impasse is reached, where all approaches to the problem have failed, and the person becomes frustrated. Ohlsson believes that this impasse drives unconscious processes which change the mental representation of a problem, and cause novel solutions to occur.

Improvisation: Charles Limb

Musician and researcher Charles Limb wondered how the brain works during musical improvisation — so he put jazz musicians and rappers in an fMRI to find out. What he and his team found has deep implications for our understanding of creativity of all kinds. (Recorded at TEDxMidAtlantic, November 2010 in Baltimore, MD. Duration: 16:31)


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