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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Process of Creative Breakthroughs and Scientific Discoveries



If you ever had an “aha” moment or a creative breakthrough this article is for you. Occasionally, if we think about a problem long enough we find a solution that is unique and beneficial. Scientific discoveries often live and die off new discoveries. According to Melissa Schilling (2005) those aha moments are years in the making and often rely on the cognitive abilities of the person. They are derived from the way in which people connect information to find new and unique perspectives.

Insight is a concept that entails an atypical association through the recombination of information to create a shortcut in a person’s network of representations. This shortcut can re-orientate a person’s perspective and create cascades to other connections. The result is a verified solution to a problem that has been previously undiscovered.

These connections are from working decades within a field and often rely on tight clusters of information. In science, as a person continues to gain more information they are capable of building in their memory multiple tightly connected networks or clusters of information. When a person finds a unique connection between all of the material, they can create new frameworks for viewing solutions. 

The question remains as to why one person can find new connections while another person with equal experience cannot. In many cases, as a person works within a field they become locked into a particular vantage point. This makes it difficult for them to move outside of that perspective to find a new connection. Some may call this ideology while another may call it cognitive rigidness. The more engrained they are in their pattern of thinking the more confirmed their beliefs. 

This is where intelligence and cognitive fluidity become involved. Some are more prone to try new connections and incorporate additional frameworks of information that allow them to see different connections. They can trace back connections to find logical conclusions and are capable applying those frameworks to new situations. This incorporation of unexpected connections of new representations can be seen as:

-completing a schema
-reorganizing visual information
-overcoming mental block
-finding a problem analog
-random recombination

The creative person enjoys thinking in novel ways and often tries to connect information in unique manners. Some have developed mental frameworks that constantly bring in new elements and attempt to find a match for them within their existing patterns. Generally, such individuals are persistent, highly motivated by intrinsic factors, and enjoy working on problems they find interesting. Over the years of data incorporation, they are able to build stronger clusters and more connections. 

Outside of this report, you can see that science, breakthroughs, and creativity are associated.  Previous research on gifted people indicates that they carry many of the creative, persistence, and deep thinking abilities that afford opportunities to find scientific breakthroughs. It is possible that over their lifetimes their over excitabilities and sensory sensitivities afford opportunities to build additional tightly woven clusters. When significant experience is gained, they can reconnect this material in new ways to make a creative breakthrough.

Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.” Arthur Schopenhauer

Schilling, M. (2005). A “small-world” network model of cognitive insight. Creativity research journal, 17 (2/3).

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