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Scott Barry Kaufman On Shifting Awareness To Be More Creative

His Scientific American blog Beautiful Minds notes Scott Barry Kaufman, PhD is “adjunct assistant professor of psychology at New York University, where he teaches courses on cognitive psychology and human intelligence” and is a co-founder of The Creativity Post.

In a post for that site, he writes that his new book “Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined” includes “my personal and scientific exploration of a broad range of research on the development of IQ, expertise, talent, and creativity.

“My investigation spans genetics and neuroscience, as well as evolutionary, developmental, social, positive, and cognitive psychology.”

In this video – “Use It or Lose It Expert: Scott Barry Kaufman” (for National Geographic) – he talks about how developing creative thinking involves moving back and forth from broad fields of attention, to more narrow ones.

He says the most important thing to help be more creative is shifting the spotlight of attention within us, to open it wider, and that we need to have the patience to allow ourselves to get to that state, “because most of the time we live in the world of the prefrontal cortex.”

In the Creativity chapter of the book, he points out that “Scientists have discovered a specific brain network, which they often refer to as ‘task negative,’ ‘resting,” or ‘default,’ that is highly active during passive rest and when looking inward.”

He adds that this “default network is responsible for so much of our daily mental activity” and that it is “hard to imagine that the undirected train of thought that arises from this network serves no adaptive purpose.”

He refers to research arguing that “mind wandering serves multiple adaptive functions, such as future planning, sorting out current concerns, cycling through different information streams, distributed learning (versus cramming), and creativity.”

This mind wandering “recruited both executive attention and default network brain activity,” and Kaufman notes “These findings are intriguing, considering that ordinarily the executive attention network and the default network work in opposition to each other: the more one network is engaged, the less the other network is engaged.

“Mind wandering appears to be a unique mental state that allows these ordinarily antagonistic brain networks to work in harmony.”

Kaufman goes into much more detail, of course; these are just a few quotes from a very wide-ranging book.

This section reminds me of other research of his, which I mentioned in an earlier post: More Daydreaming, More Creativity.

He wrote, “When most of us awaken, our working memory brain network re-engages, and our default brain network recedes into the background.”

But, he added, although that may be true for most people, “Creative folks and those with schizophrenia tend to have an overactive default network.”

Also see post: Creative Thinking and Schizophrenia

Ungifted- Intelligence RedefinedBook: Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined by Scott Barry Kaufman, PhD.

Some of the enthusiastic reviews:

“A moving personal story of overcoming the effects of having been labeled as learning disabled, and at the same time a wide ranging exploration of a set of fascinating topics related to ability, learning, and achievement.”—Ellen Winner, Professor of Psychology, Boston College, and author of Gifted Children: Myths and Realities.

“Ungifted provides a wealth of information about unlocking the potential of those at all levels of the IQ and personality scales. It is interwoven with the author’s early life history, which was a tragedy of misdiagnosis.”—James R. Flynn, author of Are We Getting Smarter?

“Ungifted insightfully interweaves a personal story with scientific research to prove that many of us have special gifts that can lead to greatness.”—Dean Keith Simonton, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, University of California, Davis, and author of Origins of Genius.

[Spotlight image from International Worldstars Association]


Scott Barry Kaufman On Shifting Awareness To Be More Creative

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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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2013). Scott Barry Kaufman On Shifting Awareness To Be More Creative. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 8, 2020, from


Last updated: 6 Jun 2013
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