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What Does Weirdness Have To Do With Creativity? Scientists Explain

What Does Weirdness Have To Do With Creativity? Scientists Explain

“A highly original person may seem unusual or strange to others”. – Neuroscientist Nancy C. Andreason.

Creativity is defined as “the ability to make new things” or think of “new ideas.” The ability to do both these requires original thinking and drawing from past experiences, abilities, and skills.

Creativity is not reserved for the artists; the painters, the authors, and the writers. Everyone is creative in their own way. As Tyler Tervooren explains “Creativity is all around us but, for so many, it remains invisible—hidden in plain sight—because we’ve conditioned ourselves to look for it in only a few places. There are so many places you can draw new ideas from to improve your work if you look just a little harder. “

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But why are some people more creative than others? The concept of latent inhibition is used to explain this.

Latent Inhibition and why we are creative

“Latent inhibition is a term used to explain how our observation of a familiar stimulus (e.g. something we have seen or heard before) takes longer to acquire meaning than a new stimulus” – Low Latent Inhibition.

For example, consider how we observe a doorknob. We know it’s purpose. It’s there to help us open a door.  We don’t give it much notice. This makes sense as we see it every day. We open a lot of doors every day. Consequently, our brains apply the same rules to all doorknobs (and all new stimuli). If we were to analyze each and every doorknob, looking at finer details and questioning why it was chosen, our brains would be overloaded. Our brains would not be able to cope.

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We then, filter out information to experience the world in a manageable way. It keeps us sane. The majority of us have a strong filter to keep out irrelevant information. The more creative individuals, however, have a lower filter or low latent inhibition. In a 2003 study, Shelley Carson found that eminent creative achievers were seven times more likely to have low rather than high latent intelligence scores.

Carson gives this example for low latent inhibitions in action: “A person with low latent inhibitions would not only see a yellow desk lamp, they may also think of bananas, Spongebob Squarepants, or Spongebob Squarepants eating a banana, or possibly concoct a whole dissertation in their head about whether or not Spongebob likes to eat bananas, or how he could get them down in the ocean”.

Many creatives fail to ignore information that generally would be irrelevant. This is known as cognitive disinhibition. Their creative brain is geared toward information absorbing a lot if information. And whilst this can be stifling, it can also be the perfect recipe for creative genius.

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How creativity and weirdness are linked

Weirdness is such a relative word. My weird will not be your weird. The same principles apply to beauty, love and other abstract constructs, like creativity.

Looking at the definition of weird, words such as “unusual” or “strange” are mentioned. Elaborating, someone who thinks unconventionally sees the world differently and does not fit within the box of what is considered “normal” is weird. Such individuals are unique. They are original. They disturb the status quo.

The common theme that binds weirdness and creativity is originality. Both fall outside the normal spectrum of what is considered normal. If there is a link between low latent inhibition and creativity, and there is also a link between creativity and weirdness through originality, then it follows that low latent inhibition is linked to weirdness through creativity. Weird people are creative through low latent inhibition. What do you think?

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Featured photo credit: Terry Presley via flickr.com

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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