Creativity

One of the greatest of all human abilities is its capacity for creative innovation.  The lab has examined creativity from a number of different perspectives.  In a recent study, we have examined the relationship between creativity and mind wandering  (Baird, Smallwood, Mrazek, Franklin, & Schooler, 2012). In this study, participants attempted to come up with alternative uses for common objects (a standard measure of creativity) and then, following various intervening tasks, attempted to generate yet more uses.  We found that an activity that encourages mind-wandering, (i.e. a non-demanding task) led to more creative solutions on the second attempt than situations that did not allow for mind-wandering (i.e. no incubation interval or engaging in a demanding task).  Strikingly, engaging in a non-demanding task was even better than doing nothing at all with respect to the benefit of the incubation period.  Collectively these findings suggest that mind-wandering during non-demanding tasks may be a particularly fertile source of creative inspiration.

The relationship between mindfulness, mind wandering and creativity was further investigated in one of the labs most recent studies (Zedelius & Schooler, 2015). This study revealed that different styles of creative problem solving are facilitated by different modes of thinking. Mindfulness was related to analytic strategies for problem solving while mind wandering may result in greater creative problems solved through insight, or through a sudden “Aha!” moment.

Other areas of research on creativity have included: the impact of thinking out loud on disrupting creative insights (Schooler, Ohlson and Brooks, 1993; Schooler & Melcher, 1995); individual differences in creativity (Schooler & Melcher, 1995), the role of the right hemisphere in creative processes (Fiore & Schooler,  1997), and the relationship between insight processes and perception (Schooler & Melcher, 1995; Schooler,  Fallshore, & Fiore 1994)

News

Selected Publications

Researchers

Jonathan Schooler

My lab’s research takes a “big picture” perspective in attempting to understand the nature of mental life, and in particular consciousness. Combining empirical, philosophical, and contemplative traditions, we address broad questions that cross traditional disciplinary boundaries.

James Elliott

James Elliott, Ph.D, is a cognitive neuroscientist with a background in behavioral, EEG, and fMRI methodologies. He has a keen interest in exploring how traditional meditation techniques can be used to help inform a scientific understanding of consciousness. 

Claire Zedelius

One line of Claire's research focuses on the role meta-awareness plays in the dynamic changes between states of mind wandering and focused attention. Another line examines the relationship between different types of mind wandering, creativity and curiosity. 

Dharma Lewis

Dharma is a fifth year Biopsychology student and the current lab manager of the META lab. She is interested in interdisciplinary cognitive science and the pedagogical implications of consciousness-related phenomena, like mind wandering and meta-cognition. Currently, she is aiming to increase the accessibility of modern mindfulness in an academic context, and examine the electrophysiological underpinnings of conscious experience.

Madeleine Gross

Madeleine studies the psychological basis of creative idea generation and insight. Using eye tracking technology, she also investigates how inter-individual differences in eye movement behavior may relate to dopamine-related cognition and personality traits, such as curiosity, schizotypy, and creativity.

Haley Mehlman

Haley Mehlman is a 3rd year Psychological and Brain Sciences and Communication double major. She is working in the TANC lab assisting James Elliott with studies using EEG on expectation, perception of random stimuli, magical thinking, and creativity.

Shivang Shelat

Shivang's interests lie in human-machine interaction, consciousness, and fatigue. He is currently researching the effects of meditation on psychomotor vigilance, divergent thinking, and phenomenology of thought.

Research Collaborators

Psychology