Intelligence is often described in terms of the separate left and right sides. As the popular convention states, the left brain is logical while the right brain is creative. Sometimes they get along; sometimes they don’t. Is this a true rendering of brain function?
Click play to hear a brain balancing audio enhancement as you read.
“Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D. and scientific director of the Imagination Institute, has put his foot down on the myth, and called it just that. In fact, he claims you can’t harness one side without enlisting the help of the other. It takes creativity to invent, and make something new, and it takes a certain calculated-ness to schedule long hours, trying to figure out how to make the invention work. For example, Leonardo da Vinci, one of the most famous artists in the world was also a brilliant inventor. His sketches of his flying machines, and fetuses developing in the womb are beautiful to look at, with expressive detail, but they’re also brilliantly designed.” 1
We all understand this fusion from personal experience. Different kinds of intelligence are called for, depending on the need of the moment. We never undertake anything that is entirely logical or 100% creative. Every function is a blend of both and one could propose that actual intelligence is knowing how to maximize brain collaboration. The article I quoted above continues, “The brain is interwoven, with no committed left side or right side usage. Parts are connected through various brain networks that criss-cross the brain to communicate and get the best function of the brain in various situations. One of these is the Executive Attention Network. This is what allows you to hold onto many pieces of information at once. When a person is studying for a test, this network allows them to remember what they’re studying, why they’re studying, the methods used to study, and when they need to finish. When it comes to creativity, the Executive Attention Network is also responsible for inhibiting the most obvious ideas that spring to mind, and instead it digs deeper to see what a second or third idea might bring—these are usually the more creatively developed versions of an idea, and it’s something improv artists are usually very good at.”
It’s sobering to consider these words in light of our current cultural preference for black and white simplicity. Instead of encouraging deep thought, news viewers are routinely subjected to programming that champions knee jerk judgments, for instance, placing blame before the whole story is known. Speed often replaces accuracy in the rush for ratings.
Kaufman writes about another network, which he calls the Imagination Network, … because it’s the inwardly focused network that kicks in when the immediate environment surrounding us is not stimulating or engaging enough. This is the network responsible for daydreaming, tuning out, and also a lot of creative musing.
“Furthermore, it takes creativity to be sympathetic for another person. The ability to imagine oneself in another person’s shoes is important to interpersonal relations, and allows us to be empathetic. This is imagination and creativity. While schools tend to prize science and math over creative skills, these things are important. It’s how we daydream, and how we improvise. Perhaps it’s time to invest in our imagination networks.”
Bottom line thinking encourages us to denigrate creativity into second place and ignore the consequences of our ensuing loss of empathy. It’s heart breaking to witness the ongoing mass shootings in America but one must ponder what kind of deep alienation led up to the incident, probably years where the perpetrator felt alone and unloved. How we, as individuals and a society, pick up on signals from each other and use our Imagination Network to help an outlier feel welcome inside the circle, could do a lot towards solving some of our more challenging social challenges.
If we want to be really intelligent, we will apply our imaginations towards finding ways to reclaim the lost boys of our society and enroll them in participation, not subversion. Some of those who end up hurting others are often very intelligent but they may also be unusual and therefore socially outcast. But diversity is a good thing; it’s a key component in the survival of any species, including humans. A happy, connected person is not likely to harm their neighbors.
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1. Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind by Scott Barry Kaufman, http://bigthink.com/videos/scott-barry-kaufman-on-intelligence-and-imagination