‘The Eureka Factor’ author to speak at Montclair State University symposium

Don't yell at journalists. Or actors.

Or entrepreneurs.

It's not that they won't like it. They won't, but also, they won't work well.

Anxiety is the enemy of creativity.

That's a takeaway in "The Eureka Factor: Aha Moments, Creative Insight, and the Brain" by John Kounios and Mark Beeman.

To have an "aha!" moment, the brain needs to be receptive.

Kounios, a professor of psychology and director of Drexel University's doctoral program in applied cognitive and brain sciences, will be speaking about the book on Tuesday, April 14, at 7 p.m. in University Hall at Montclair State University, in an event presented by The Creative Research Center and The Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship. Networking with pizza begins at 6 p.m. To sign up, visit meetup.com/Montclair-Entrepreneurs/events/220434102.

Kounios said that when he was in graduate school, he became interested in the question of how discoveries were made. "At that time, the zeitgeist was really that all of these mental processes flowed and changed gradually over time," he said.

But certain types of problems, known as "insight problems," which are like riddles, didn't work that way. These problems demand that a shift in point of view be solved.

Alexander had to untie the chariot of Gordius from a pole in Phrygia to fulfill a prophecy that he'd be the next emperor of Asia.

He took a sword and sliced through it. "The Gordian knot" is an example of solving a problem unconventionally.

Kounios and Beeman applied cognitive neuroscience to the process, recording the behavior of brainwaves in subjects as they found solutions"What the government realizes, and the business community realizes, is that our nation's economic wellbeing depends on innovation and the ability to look at things in different and novel ways to do things, rather than doing the same things better and more efficiently," Kounios said.

IQ tests, Kounios explained, measure "executive processes, the ability to focus and exclude things, and keep things in one's working memory. Creative thought often involves letting go, not focusing, or defocusing. People who have ADHD tend to score more highly on tests of creativity. The ability to be somewhat scattered allows people to make connections more than the buttoned-down approach."

Sudden discoveries in problem solving are not limited to human beings: an elephant that throws a tree at an electrified fence to defuse it is demonstrating insight, he said.

Why do so many people have insights in the shower?

Kounios said it might be "sensory deprivation. You're in this little cubicle. The water is warm so you don't feel the boundary between your body and the air. It's hard to feel where your body is. There is white noise, an unchanging visual scene. Maybe it's even blurry, if there's water in your eyes. Sensory deprivation focuses you to force your attention inwardly."

Having enough sleep matters. Studies show that being upbeat has a "powerful effect" on insight, he said. Having fun and keeping a playful outlook actually leads to innovation and creativity. Being an entrepreneur requires making connections, but starting a business often means working too hard.

"It's important to make time to have fun, daydream, and sleep," Kounios said.

All the more reason not to yell.Contact Gwen Orel at orel@northjersey.com

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