Tuesday, September 22, 2015

What is Creativity - 19

“. . . not only is attention [what we select from available sensory input] learned behavior, but it is shaped by what we value, and values are a key part of cultural transmission, one generation to another. The absorption of those values into our habitual behavior is also biological. We change brain pathways, and we make neural efficiencies when we learn.”

This is a quote from Cathy N. Davidson's Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn, a book that I had read about 5 years ago and was on its way to a donation pile. I'm not sure why I decided to skim it before it left the house. It's become a different book since I last read it. Because I've been writing and thinking about creativity for a couple of years, my attention was drawn to different sentences, different conclusions.

Many decades ago, during one of my conversations about the nature of art with Ken Kaplowitz, a professor at The College of New Jersey (, he convinced me that different people viewing the same scene, or having the same experience, would focus on—pay attention to—different aspects of that scene or experience. I was so convinced that I wrote an award-winning short story, "The Boys in the Photograph," in which two characters see one of Ken's actual photographs quite differently.

Ken and I were discussing psychological differences. Professor Davidson is writing about cultural differences in attention. Perhaps going back centuries. In one experiment, mothers were supposed to give their young children toys. American mothers used twice as many nouns. ("See the car. See its wheels.") Japanese mothers used far more verbs ("I give you the car. Now give it to me. Thank you.") and were emphasizing relationships and interactions.

And, of course, the Japanese and American children were creating different neural pathways, different psychologies.

What does attention have to do with creativity? That's where creativity begins, doesn't it? With what we pay attention to.

No comments:

Post a Comment