Creativity + Genius

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by: David Armano

Wow. Just came across an excellent piece relating to how the mind of a genius works and also the relationship between creativity and genius. It’s worth taking a look at, as it covers the topic at a very high-level but also explores it from different angles including biological, and psychological factors. Not all creative people are geniuses just as not all geniuses are creative. Or are they? 

Is being a genius at something the ultimate form of creativity even in areas like mathematics?

The piece also goes on to suggest that genius cannot be determined by IQ alone.  On a personal note, my three-year-old can read simple sentences.  I mean really read—and he wasn’t taught this.  At 2 years old he was reading words and now he’s sounding them out and trying to read big words he doesn’t know.  It’s kind of scary actually—to see his little brain working a bit differently.  I don’t know what the future has in store for him—but I do think the common sense notion that a genius thinks differently (quirks and all) is fairly understood. 

Great read.  Here are some choice bits:

"There's a big difference between being really smart and being a genius. While geniuses tend to be exceptionally intelligent, they also use imagination and creativity to invent, discover or create something new within their field of interest. They break new ground rather than simply remembering or reciting existing information.

Geniuses do not usually operate in isolation, either — nearly all of them analyze the work of other great minds and use that information to make new discoveries. Self-taught geniuses, on the other hand, often explore information in unexpected or inventive ways, due in part to their lack of formal training. In either case, the ability to imagine new possibilities is as important as general intelligence.

Like intelligence, creativity and imagination can be difficult to isolate, quantify or explain. Some researchers believe that creative people have less latent inhibition than other people. Latent inhibition is the unconscious ability to ignore unimportant stimuli. Researchers theorize that creative people either receive more stimuli from the world around them or ignore less of it. This may also explain why creative people seem to be more prone to mental illness. People who are both unable to filter stimuli and emotionally unstable are more prone to psychosis.

Creativity also seems to have some traits in common with bipolar disorder. During an episode of mania, a person with bipolar disorder experiences increases in energy, the ability to focus and motivation. Bipolar disorder is more common among writers and artists than in the general population, but scientists have not found a cause-and-effect relationship between the two.

The creativity of genuises also relates to productivity and hard work. Sometimes, the most dramatic examples of genius involve people who produce their best work at a very young age. However, not every genius produces exceptional work early in life the way Einstein and Mozart did. Some, like Ludwig von Beethoven, do their best work later in life.

Researcher David Galenson theorizes that the reason for this is that creative people come in two main types:

  • Conceptual innovators think in bold, dramatic leaps and do their best work when young
  • Experimental innovators learn through trial and error and do their best work after lengthy experimentation

Critics say Galenson's theories overlook people who produce exceptional work throughout their lives. His latest research suggests that creativity can be expressed as a continuum.

…We may never know precisely where creativity comes from, why some people use their creativity more than others or why some people are most creative during specific times in their lives. We may not learn how one person ends up with the right balance of brainpower, intelligence and creativity to become a genius. But it's clear that geniuses are central to advancements in science, technology and understanding. Without geniuses, our understanding of mathematics, literature and music would be completely different. Concepts that we now take for granted, like gravity, planetary orbits and black holes, might still be undiscovered."




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