Archive for the ‘Psychology Science’ Category


The Process of Having Good Ideas


Some interesting leads in this Animate of Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From.” (HT: Scott Adams)

Johnson researched the process of individuals who had a famously good idea and boils it down to:

1) Have a hunch.

2) Nurture that hunch and others like it.

3) Tell a community of like-minded individuals about the hunch.

4) Collaborate.

I’m sure (or I hope, anyway) that there’s more detail in Johnson’s book because I have a lot of unanswered questions, such as where he thinks hunches come from.

But there are a lot of interesting observations here toward a better understanding of thinking:

1) A hunch is an incomplete idea.  This makes a lot of sense. A big idea relates a lot of observations and other ideas together. Gravity required understanding in great detail the motion of the planets, the observation that objects of different mass fall at the same rate, and a host of other things. If you don’t have everything, you may have the sense that the pieces fit together somehow and you have some idea of how, but you don’t actually have the idea.

2) There is intellectual value to working with others. In my work at JetBlue, we promote the goal of healthy conflict of ideas. Thinking is an act of asking and answering a lot of questions. Working with another person at very least means they’re doing some of that work for you, but more than that, they’re probably asking different questions than you and pushing your thinking into places you otherwise wouldn’t go.

Really curious to read more. I’m reading a different book now (on the creation process of designers), but maybe this is the next one.


15 Scientific Facts About Creativity | Online Universities


15 Scientific Facts About Creativity.

Interesting collection of findings about creativity. I find most interesting the connection of creativity to language centers. Creativity to me is about generating a lot of solutions–in a process not that different from speaking–and then judging and editing until you actually have something good. (HT: Skillshare)


One Important Point About Concentration


concentration1I am linking here to an article on concentration, mostly as an excuse to go off on my own thoughts. The article itself speaks to the neuroscience of concentration (which is interesting) and William James’ thoughts on the role of concentration in one’s experience (which is interesting but a little muddled).

The key line that sticks with me is this one: “Multitasking is a myth,” Ms. Gallagher said. “You cannot do two things at once. The mechanism of attention is selection: it’s either this or it’s that.”

I write this post in a cafe while listening to music. I’ve never put it into these terms, but I think that the main reason I so frequently listen to music while I’m working is to block out those other distractors. This is particularly important for me, since I like to work in cafes, outdoors, and any other public place I can find. The music comes from my standard iTunes collection, and I know it pretty well. At this point, the music can bring me on an emotional journey (typically either a pumped-up The Killers one or an epic, meaningful, John Williams one) without taking away from my concentration on the work.

That brings me to my main point. My current understanding, based on my studies and introspection, is that your conscious awareness of the world at any moment is made of two things.

The first is what is whatever you are concentrating on. For me, at this moment, that is this post, but I can easily shift it to the music I’m listening to (which I am somewhat embarrassed to admit, is “Holding Out for a Hero”) or to other objects around me or to the pressure of the chair against my body, etc.

The second is everything else that I am vaguely aware of. That includes, when I am not attending to it, the music, the environment, the pressure of the chair, my vague inclination of the time. The closest term in psychology that I currently have for that is “working memory.” But that doesn’t seem to name it. Working memory refers to the processes and structures in the mind that allow for short-term recall of telephone numbers, names, and the like. I think it might be the same thing, but I’m referring to something more like “working awareness.” Maybe someone’s researched this. Hm. To be continued.


Drive-By Posting


Tomorrow is my birthday, and I am taking a few days off from the blog. To make sure that I am filling my blogger’s sacred duty to supply new content regularly, see below a few interesting links.

Poor work ethic predicts burnout seventeen years later: click here.

I posted recently about an article suggesting that choking was caused by thinking too much during execution. Here’s one about the perils of rushing. Between the two, it seems like the key is calm both in mind and action. Click.

A research article claiming better recall for things people find humorous. My best guess about the real significance? We remember the things we find valuable. Click already!

And hello 30!


Practicing Brain Fitness: The Interesting Tools of Posit Science


144240941_266bc05df2As you might know by now, I am very excited about the potential of education to improve one’s skills and ability to accomplish ambitious things. Last night, a friend told me about a company that deals with self-improvement on the most fundamental level possible.

Posit Science focuses on the most fundamental capacities of a human mind, namely one’s ability to take in sensory information and then process and store it. These are not the whole of ability, but they are the core skills out of which more complex skills can be formed. You need to be able to focus on one spot in order to learn to read.

The company has created a series of computer games that assess one’s abilities and gives you an opportunity to practice and improve them. I tried and enjoyed one on the size of one’s visual field (click here), and I am looking forward to trying more. I can’t speak to the quality of the products as a training tool yet, but the list of scientists creating and advising this company certainly seems credible, and the core claims make sense to me (click here for a summary). Why shouldn’t these capacities be improvable?


When To Think and When Not To


article-1131457-033AFE11000005DC-536_468x338About a decade ago, I became fascinated by Zen Buddhism, largely due to the frequent presentation of effortless skill. One koan centered on a painter who struggled for a year to paint a monastery perfectly. He failed repeatedly until he grew angry one day and scribbled a sketch in one sitting. Of course, this last quick and dirty version was the perfect one. So I tried this out and started just plunging into tasks without thought…and quickly found out that the koan did not quite apply to all situations.

But there’s something compelling about the story, and it’s not just wish fulfillment. It may not be the whole truth, but it’s certainly part of it. Take a look at this article for a pretty compelling presentation of studies about this subject.

PS You may have noticed that I didn’t post for a bit. My old format wasn’t working with my schedule particularly well, so I’m changing things up. We’ll see how this improves my consistency.

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