A Better Brain – Patterns

Source: Nautilus, Mar 2017

In a 2014 paper titled “Designing a ‘better’ brain: insights from experts and savants,” Fernand Gobet, a cognitive scientist at the University of Liverpool, and colleagues, note that one “bottleneck to creativity is our inability to see things in a new light, free of prior interpretations.” Once we identify some pattern—say, a musical score—and give it a particular meaning, they write, it’s hard to discard it and imagine it meaning something radically different. Autistic savants tend to recognize patterns but they don’t try to apply meaning to them. 

Unlike normal people, in other words, they don’t develop “cognitive mind sets.” Encouraging this in non-savants, they write, can help them “explore new conceptual space, and thus be more creative.”

“Creativity can be boosted by decreasing conceptual processing and increasing the role of low-level perceptual processing,” they say. This difference in pattern recognition might explain why people like Adiv, Thompson, and Lemke are capable of a seemingly effortless creativity.


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