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Shelley Carson on Brainsets and Creativity

Creativity researcher Shelley Carson, PhD uses the idea of ‘brain set’ as a take-off on ‘mind set’ in her book Your Creative Brain.

Speaking with David Van Nuys, Ph.D. for another of his excellent Shrink Rap Radio podcast interviews, she explains more about these aspects of brain and mind.

She wants people to realize from her book that “you can train yourself to be more creative” and know “there’s so much change going on now that really we need to be creative, not just to keep up but if we want to actually make a difference and help shape the world of the future.”

Her model of brain sets is summarized with the acronym CREATES, each letter referring to one of seven different brain states.

Here is part of the interview transcript in which she explains these states:

“The ‘C’ from ‘CREATES’ is the ‘connect’ brain set. And in this brain set you are generating multiple ideas, you’ve activated numerous associational networks in the brain and one idea seems to lead to another to another to another.

” ‘R’ stands for ‘reason’ and this is a brain set in which you are logically solving problems, sequentially moving through steps of problem-solving and this is important for improving and reworking and elaborating a creative idea.

“When you say ‘I am thinking about something’, you’re usually thinking from the ‘reason’ brain set using reasoning and logic.

“The ‘E’ stands for ‘envision’ and in this brain set you’re thinking visually, you’re using mental imagery, using your imagination and seeing patterns actually emerge in your mind.

“The ‘A’ is for the ‘absorb’ brain set which happens to be my mental comfort zone is a brain state in which you are open and receptive to new ideas and to stimuli coming in through the environment.

“You’re open to new experiences and ideas and you are absorbing information non-judgmentally, the way a sponge would absorb water.

[Click image to view larger.]

“Then we’re going on to ‘T’ which is ‘transform’ and basically in this, when you’re in this brain set, you are in a state of mild anxiety or depression and the idea is to take this negative energy and funnel it into a creative and positive outcome, which we’ve seen through art therapy, music therapy, writing therapy, that when you’re engaged in a creative project, you sort of lose track of time and you also lose the ability to be anxious or even depressed.

“It becomes totally absorbing of your attention. So the idea of ‘transform’ is to take that negative emotional state and transform it into positive work.

“The [‘E’] ‘evaluate’ brain set is a state in which you are judging or evaluating your creative ideas. The judgement centre of the brain allows you to make rapid evaluations of things in the environment and also of your own ideas.

“Many people find this to be their comfort zone. They’re very good at quickly assessing or sizing things up and making judgements but while this has an advantage, at one point in the creative process, it’s detrimental to the generation of multiple creative ideas.

“So, the idea is use the ‘evaluate’ brain set judiciously, so to speak.

“And then finally the ‘stream’ brain set which is ‘S’ at the end of ‘CREATES’ is a state like ‘flow’ or ‘being in the zone’ where thoughts and actions flow almost effortlessly, seemingly without much conscious input. And this is the state of improvisation or the state that you might use, say, if you are playing jazz music.”

From podcast interview: Creativity and The Brain with Shelly Carson, PhD – you can hear the interview and read a transcript.

Her book: Your Creative Brain: Seven Steps to Maximize Imagination, Productivity, and Innovation in Your Life.

[You can also hear my podcast interview with Dr. Carson.]

Phrenology image from book: Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer.

CREATES brainsets image from Dr. Carson’s site – where you will find much more about her book and creativity research, and a Brainsets Quiz:

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Shelley Carson on Brainsets and Creativity

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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Some excerpts from The Creative Mind are included in his newsletter .
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2011). Shelley Carson on Brainsets and Creativity. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 10 Nov 2011
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