Senin, 18 Agustus 2008


I buy old copies of the The New Yorker at the library for 25 cents. This brings me great pleasure -- more satisfaction, in fact, than finding an old beer can (10 cents here in Michigan) on a walk in the woods. Some of the pleasure comes from the irregularity of it. I don't always know if I'll find a copy in the stack. Last week, I found the July 28 (2008!) issue, which included an article by Jonah Lehrer about what happens inside the brain when people have an insight, and why good ideas come to us when they do. What he learned from two cognitive neuroscientists, Mark Jung-Beeman at Northwestern University and John Kounios at Drexel University, is consistent with what many writers know: if you're waiting for an epiphany, you need to let your mind wander.

Here is a summary from the article: "The insight process, as sketched by Jung-Beeman and Kounios, is a delicate mental balancing act. At first, the brain lavishes the scarce resource of attention on a single problem. But, once the brain is sufficiently focussed, the cortex needs to relax in order to seek out the more remote assocation in the right hemisphere, which will provide the insight....As Jung-Beeman and Kounios see it, the insight process is an act of cognitive deliberation -- the brain must be focused on the task at hand -- transformed by accidental, serendipitous connections. We must concentrate on letting the mind wander."

Here is the article.

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