How to promote insight tile

We have all had moments of insight – those delicious “a-ha” moments! In these moments of discovery, we get a rush of adrenaline at the realisation of our own learning. But what if we could foster and promote these insights?

We have all had moments of insight – those delicious “a-ha” moments! In these moments of discovery, we get a rush of adrenaline at the realisation of our own learning. But what if we could foster and promote these insights?

What is insight?
Insight comes when you have a sudden comprehension of something. These “a-ha” moments happen when we find a solution to a problem, understand something we have been grappling with, recognise or identify something eg in a picture or have a realisation about yourself.

When does insight happen?
Insight usually occurs because of your brain reorganising or restructuring the elements of a situation or problem. The solution is computed unconsciously, in the background then emerges suddenly as a moment of awareness. This entails a “conceptual processing” can lead to a new non-obvious realisation. We often label this creativity.

What influences greater insight?
Despite the apparent spontaneity of these moments, researchers have found there are things that can influence greater insight. With the use of electroencephalography (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study neural activity, some interesting findings were observed.

Insights that are characterised as creative and non-obvious solutions result after certain sorts of brain activities. These include

  • following times when your brain has been in a resting state eg sleep
  • when processing associations loosely eg random thinking rather than logical, analytical processes
  • having diffuse attention on the problem eg day-dreaming rather than focused thinking

Your mood can influence your creative output. A positive mood affects cognitive control that will facilitate insight whereas anxiety inhibits it. Creativity can be enhanced by inducing a positive mood eg through watching comedy, or engaging in fun activities.

Can you promote creativity?
It would seem that creativity and insight can be promoted. They require a positive environment and the time and space for thinking and allowing ideas to emerge. More than that, there needs to be an absence of anxiety in getting to a solution.

An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail.
~ Dr Edwin Land

Does this sound a bit flaky for use at work? Perhaps – but we have all had those moments of discovery that occur when we are not focused on a task. They happen when you are having a shower, or when you wake up from a nap or overnight sleep. Returning from an exercise session can be another facilitator of “loose thinking” resulting in insight generation.

What we need to do, is to factor time into our day, for the brain to slow down and allow these associations to occur. It means having time-out from tasks. Breaking the day up with less focused activity. Engaging in activities that allow us to let our thoughts go.

A return to childhood activities?
Some of those activities we engaged in as children, are great facilitators of the neutral state that promotes insights and creativity. I am thinking of things like doodling, colouring-in or patting/stroking pets. These have a calming and positive effect. Perhaps we’d all have more insights if we returned to some of these? What do you think?

Source:
Kounios, John & Beeman, Mark. 2016. “The Aha! Moment: The Cognitive Neuroscience of Insight” in Current Directions in Psychological Science, Vol 8, No4, pp 210-216.

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