Cognitive Filtering, Meditation, Creativity
In my earlier post Highly Sensitive and Creative: Latent Inhibition, I referred to a study which found that the nervous system of creative people appears to be more open to stimuli from the surrounding environment.
One of the authors, Harvard psychologist Shelley Carson, commented that her research “indicates that low levels of latent inhibition and exceptional flexibility in thought predispose people to mental illness under some conditions and to creative accomplishments under others.”
[You can also hear my podcast interview with Dr. Carson.]
In his new post Why Daydreamers Are More Creative, cognitive psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman, PhD covers a number of fascinating topics relating to the creative mind, and he explains, “Latent inhibition is a filtering mechanism that we share with other animals…[and] involves the ability to consider something as relevant even if it was previously tagged as irrelevant.
“A reduced latent inhibition allows us to treat something as novel, no matter how may times we’ve seen it before.”
In the early 1970’s, I worked as a research assistant at the University of California, San Francisco, Medical Center, Langley Porter Institute, in the laboratory of David Galin, MD, who worked with Robert Ornstein, PhD. [One of his Kindle books is Meditation and Modern Psychology.]
(I had fun operating a large polygraph that detected brain waves and sometimes other body signals like temperature, and even designed a stretch-fabric cap with EEG electrodes.)
The focus of their research was brain lateralization – the early left brain/right brain stuff.
And no, creativity does not “reside” in the right brain hemisphere; it is much more complicated.
But they also did some work with Dr. Joe Kamiya, looking at brain activity in meditation.
One of the trends they found, as I recall, is that experienced meditators did not accommodate nearly as much to new stimuli (such as a random sound): most people’s brains will tend to dampen its reactions over time, as though “saying” ‘I’ve heard that before, no need to pay much attention.’
But for the meditators, a sound or whatever was generally responded to as if it were a new, novel stimulus.
What does meditation do?
In his post Four Myths About Mindfulness Meditation, Ronald Alexander, Ph.D. writes that the related experience of mindfulness “seems to ground restless people, transforming their energy from a chaotic, even manic, discharge to a more focused and heightened exuberance that then can be channeled into [creative] productivity.”
He adds, “By cultivating mindfulness, you allow yourself to hear even the subtlest messages from the unconscious. You can be awakened with a gentle nudge instead of a splash of icy water. Embracing your circumstances despite the pain, you can craft a fulfilling life that’s infused with passion and originality…”
[Photo: Meditation – By HaPe_Gera. This is, of course, a more or less stereotyped image of meditation; there are ways to gain the benefits of meditation without sitting alone out in ‘nature’ – as much as that can be spiritually and emotionally refreshing.
Among the Meditation and mindfulness articles on my site is “The Science Behind Holosync and Other Neurotechnologies using Binaural Beats” by Bill Harris of Centerpointe Research Institute, who thinks the “gentle altering of brain wave patterns using sound may be the easiest, most potent, and safest way” to effect positive changes in brain activity to enhance health and creativity.
[You can read some comments about Holosync in my post Psychotherapist Sarah Chana Radcliffe on technologies for growth.]
I have been using a Holosync CD (from Centerpointe) for some months, and while I can’t say what it may be doing for creativity, it is definitely calming – which, given my proneness to excitability, agitation and anxiety, is of real value.
Have you used meditation in any form to enhance your creative thinking or imagination?
Eby, D. (2011). Cognitive Filtering, Meditation, Creativity. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 27, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/creative-mind/2011/03/cognitive-filtering-meditation-creativity/