17.9.06

Genius and the Sexes

> a growing number of research seem to indicate that the gene, or set of genes, for intelligence could be found in the sex chromosmes -- more specifically, in the X chromosome. Do you know what this means?

>> well, if that is true, and if (this is a critical 'if') the genes can ONLY be found in the X chromosome, then it would imply that genius males cannot have genius sons if the mothers do not have high intelligence themselves. That is of course adapting a strictly hereditarian view of intelligence. Nevertheless, in that view and assuming that the X chromosome has a monopoly on genes for intelligence, it would mean that males cannot exclusively pass on their intelligence to their male children.

> that's interesting, isn't it? do you think the research is definitive enough and that intelligence is determined by the X?

>> the recent results that came from the sequencing of the DNA and further examination of the X chromosome does indicate that a large number of mental disorders are directly linked with that particular chomosome.

> we're talking genius here, not retards.

>> where's your political correctness and sensitivity, moron? we don't use the word 'retard' here because it's derogatory. anyway, although the direct evidence seems to link the X with mental disability, it does connect intelligence with that chromosome. you see, if a mental disability is X-linked, it means that there is a damaged or missing gene on that chromosome. it is entirely plausible, then, that the same chromosome could contain the same set but 'enhanced' versions of genes.

> you mean to say that if a certain chromosome can contain defective 'brain genes', it can also contain excellent 'brain genes'?

>> precisely. after all, genetic defects usually results from missing or damaged set of genes. thus, if the genes are present and perfect, the trait is also expressed and expressed perfectly.

> hey, what about that genius sperm bank founded by graham? doesn't he just selected nobel prize winner who were overwhelmingly, if not exlusively, male? does it mean that none of the male children from those genius sperms were also geniuses?

>> that's curious, i haven't thought about that. perhaps you're not a moron after all. you're talking about Robert Graham's "Repository for Germinal Choice" and you're right that the donors were all male whose IQs are relatively high (although later revelations showed that none of the donors were actually nobel laureates). it's interesting to note that there had been follow-up studies on the children from that sperm bank and some male children turned out to be in fact very intelligent.

> now, those male childen sure did not inherit their X chromosome from their nobel-laureate father. is that a counterevidence that genius is linked with X?

>> not at all. you must remember that while Graham's criteria for donors were strict, he also had criteria for the female recipients. they do not have to be nobel prize winners, but they have to be at least well-educated. the mothers of the babies from the sperm bank are not morons in this case. thus, it is entirely possible that the male children who turned out to be highly intelligent got their Xs from their mothers.

> well, if all these evidence point out to the right conclusion, it only means one thing...

>> .... that the future of mankind's cognitive development depends on the X, and that genetic engineering might hold the holy grail for the ultimate potential of our species?

> nope, i'm not that universal in my outlook. it means, for me, that i should select very carefully who should i choose to become the mother of my children!

>> you are a moron after all. and if you are a moron, assuming all these evidence are true, it would mean that your mother is--

> -- now, don't you make another 'momma joke'!

18.4.06

looking for creativity in a haystack of neurons

>> can creativity be quantified? Can it be reduced to specific firing of a set of neurons that can be examined in an fMRI or tested empirically on levels of experimental validity at par with the physical sciences?

> can we hold the human soul with the cold mechanical grasp of science?

>> don’t get poetic now, it makes me shudder. I’m simply wondering that since psychology is inevitably becoming more and more exact; with increasing reliance on experimental validity than ever before. Freud may have gotten away with interpreting dreams a century ago, but nobody listens to dream-interpreters now without the backing of data from scientific equipment worth a gazillion dollars.

> don’t you miss the good old days when one can come up with domain-changing theories just by observing three children – one’s own children at that? If someone presents a paper today based on the observations of offspring, that someone might get an IgNobel prize instead of an Erasmus.

>> most probably. This trend towards experimental investigations of a complex mental process should make a stronger case for interdisciplinary collaboration, especially between psychology and neuroscience. Both have much to gain from the other discipline because neither one can completely explain a phenomenon as complex as creativity.

> do you believe then that components of creativity such as insight or drive cannot be completely explained by neuroscience?

>> yes, but I also believe that some other components (such as cortical arousal) is best analyzed experimentally. I have always believe that creativity, and the Self, is more than a sum of its parts. Mike C puts it more eloquently when he said, “The human organism cannot survive as a bundle of neural reflexes...”

> I agree that neuroscience has huge potential contributions to the study of creativity, but how could it be applied to historiometric studies? Although we can conceivably examine the neural process of eminent individuals who are still alive (or willing to be strapped on to a huge toroidal magnet while they are asked to perform creativity-inducing tasks), most creative geniuses being studied by historiometric researchers are dead.

>> personally, I’m uneasy with the historiometric approach. Although it is based on empirical research and in fact backed upon by quantitative data, there is too much uncertainty in examining psychological process of a hundred years ago. If we have problems determining neural processes while we are looking at it through fMRI in real time, how much more when we are investigating what is going through Leonardo’s brain half a millennium ago. Plus there is that phrase: garbage in, garbage out (GIGO). Although originally intended for computer systems, it can be applied here. No matter how sophisticated the statistical techniques used to process the data, if the historical values are inaccurate (an we have reason to believe that historical inaccuracies are not farfetched), then the output based on those data will also be inaccurate.

> I’ll tell you a secret. When I read about how Freud attempted to explain Leonardo’s straightness (or gayness) out of childhood experiences, I had to fight a strong urge to burst with maniacal laughter.

>> your preoccupation with Freud is becoming increasingly disturbing. Back to the historiometric studies, I can see that it has very significant utility in the study of creativity. In fact, the Phenomenon approach presented by Gardner relies in part with the results from Simonton’s historiometric studies. The phenomenon approach itself is useful especially for individuals with big C.

> but as you mentioned, dead people can’t be strapped on to fMRI or examined with a PET scan. So perhaps we should try to start a historiometric survey of eminent people now! Einstein might be dead but Hawking isn’t! I’m sure the future generation of creativity researchers will thank us for providing them with solid data for their historiometric studies.

>> and perhaps then, we will understand what is so unique in the brains of creative geniuses with the goal that, as Gardner hoped, we can apply that knowledge to understand what makes all of us creative.

14.4.06

Freud, the Borg, and Creativity

> this Freud fellow is interesting. he seems to relate everything to unsatisfied wishes. what is more interesting is that these wishes would often boil down to just a single one -- sex.

>> and you find that interesting? that should tell you something about yourself... but you would be wrong to view sex as the central point in Freud's work. although you are right that the "unsatisfied wishes" are usually sexual in nature, the wishes themselves are less important than the "entity" from where these wishes come to being. the most important aspect of Freud's work is in bringing forth the Unconscious as the prime mover of conscious thought. in a sense, Freud revealed to us that beneath the visible ice floating on the ocean is a much larger mass that is invisible to us but dictates the fate of the iceberg.

> so basically, conscious thought stems from the unconscious? and conscious action, which is guided by conscious thought, is also largely influenced by the unconscious? then since the unconscious cannot be rationally controlled, in would follow that our actions are beyond rational control -- which can be demonstrated to be untrue.

>> you are interpreting it incorrectly. Freud does not imply that our actions are largely irrational, or even our conscious thought. what he does imply is that there are certain "processes" behind our thoughts and actions that are not rational. in fact, like Jung, Freud is considered to have an antirationalist approach especially to creativity. let's take a creative endeavor as an example. what Freud suggests is that although the product itself is rational (such as a poem or a novel), the thought processes behind it cannot be directly and rationally explained even by the creator of the product.

> if i said that Freud is interesting, I'd have to say that this Jung fellow is strange. the concept of a "collective unconscious" sounds too much like the Borg Collective from Star Trek... you know, those beings who share a collective mind making them almost unstoppable in their quest to assimilate other spe--

>> Borg? did you spend your weekend watching TV instead of doing those assigned readings in EPSY 8220?

> if i watched TV all weekend, would i be able to argue that the reason i find Jung's concept shaky is that his implication that creative potential can be passed on to succeeding generations would imply that creativity is embedded in our genes? and this genetic implication is increasingly being challenged by current research that suggests creativity is too complex a trait to be explained genetically.

>> your veering around my question is impressive. you should try a career as a diplomat. as much as i hate to admit, i have to agree with you this time. I'm uncomfortable with Jung's concept of the collective unconscious. although his original concept is light years away from your stupid Borg analogy, even he admits that it cannot be brought into the realm of consciousness. if that is so, how are we to determine if these archetypes are in fact evolutionary in nature.

> anyway, i think both of them give the Unconscious too much credit.

>> true, and Kubie is offering a more logical balance regarding the forces behind creative thought processes. i like it that he acknowledges the role of the conscious in guiding the creative process.

> i like the way he slams the idea that neurosis plays a beneficial role in the creative process. i agree with him that madness cannot result in creativity unless there is a conscious aspect that is capable of self-evaluation.

13.4.06

Arousal and Creativity

> Do you want to be creative? I've read this terrific technique to increase creativity!

>> Oh really? So you just happen to stumble on something that can revolutionize the field of creativity research, huh? Although I am extremely doubtful on this, let's hear it then.

> In this article from Martindale, he presents several research results that imply an inverse relationship between cortical arousal and degree of creativity. In other words, as the level of arousal increases, there is a degradation of creativity. This would also mean that if the level of arousal decreases, there should also be a corresponding improvement in creativity.

>> That is plausible, although the relationship is not strictly inverted.

An inverse relationship graph would appear like this:












The theoretical interpretation of the arousal continuum as related to learning and performance is generally viewed as an inverted-u, which would appear like this:

With the level of arousal being the vertical axis and task complexity the horizontal axis.



However, if we disregard the simple tasks and focus only on the medium to complex (or the right-hand-side of the graph), then the inverse relationship is indeed present. Anyway, what is it you are trying to tell me?

> So if arousal is inversely proportional to creativity, several theorists such as Schultz suggested that it might be possible to increase creativity by decreasing the levels of arousal. In fact, there were creative people such as Schiller and Proust that exhibited behaviors that can only be described as sensory deprivation -- Proust locks himself up in sound-retardant rooms and Schiller numbs his feet with ice water.

>> I can see where you are leading this. Are you suggesting therefore that sensory deprivation is the way to go to increase creativity? That we should just anesthetize ourselves whenever we need those "aha!" moments?

> That might be going a bit too far. I only intended to suggest minimizing unnecessary external stimuli when one is engaged in an activity where creativity is important. That is, trying to write poetry while the TV is on and your lasagna is in the middle of its culinary process might not result in a masterpiece – for both the poem and the lasagna.

>> You are making sense. But even if you are suggesting sensory deprivation for the sake of creativity, I would still not consider that going too far given your impulsive nature. The implications from brain scan research that I am about to tell you should really blow your mind.

> Get on with it then.

>> It has been hypothesized by Haier that synaptic pruning, where synaptic connections per neuron decrease after a certain age, can have a positive effect by making the brain more efficient by removing its redundant neural connections. Of course, an excessive form of synaptic pruning can lead to brain damage. However, there must be an optimal number of synaptic connections that can be removed to result in an optimal brain performance.

> That's amazing!! Do you want to volunteer for an experiment in controlled prefrontal lobotomy? We can arrange for your synapses to be systematically destroyed by lasers while continuously monitoring your brain functions. The lasers will stop the moment you reach the optimal brain performance!

>> I will pretend that you are not enjoying that sarcastic suggestion. The only positive thing with that stupid suggestion though is it anticipated the next research results that I was about to tell you. You see, Martindale and Eysenck are implying that creative people have decreased levels of frontal-lobe activation. This is because, according to them, the frontal lobes are responsible for cognitive inhibition and creativity is stifled by inhibition. Thus, creative people tend to be less inhibited, and so if areas of the brain that are responsible for cognitive inhibition can somehow be restricted, creativity should flourish.

> Ha! As you have admitted, my suggestions are not all nonsense. In fact, as a more practical application, this would mean that one is more creative when one is less inhibited and inhibition can be reduced by methods less drastic than prefrontal lobotomy. Alcohol can do the job. Now, all we have to do is find the "optimal" level.

>> And that, I’m sure, is an experiment that you would be more than happy to volunteer!

are we a bunch of neurons?

>> Neuroscience is very interesting. For starters, don't you find it fascinating that the human brain is trying its best to understand how it works, and thereby attempting to explain what drives it to try its best to understand how it works?

> That kind of convoluted talk only makes my brain hurt. Plus I do not really believe that the brain is capable of completely understanding itself. In fact, for that matter, I don't believe we are simply our brains. An intangible mind beyond mere neurons is more appealing to me.

>> I agree with you. Nevertheless, the study of the brain is still fascinating and can help us understand aspects of ourselves. Perhaps there is a mind, perhaps there isn't. Although I would also like to believe that there is, there's no doubt that the mind is largely linked with the actions and reactions of a bunch of neurons. You cannot deny that your intangible mind is affected when chemicals (such as CH3CH2OH, your favorite chemical in beer) affect the functioning of your brain. What is more interesting is the possibility of a neurological explanation to phenomena that you might previously attribute to the mind. For example, although we still cannot explain intuition completely as a neurological process, there is growing evidence that it can be partially explained as a result when the brain hemispheres function independently for a time in the subconscious level.

> Yes, and yet when the hemispheres are independent permanently, the result is often negative for the overall functioning of the brain, as shown by those split-brain individuals who exhibit strange behavior and are seemingly incapable of creative thought. With the results of split-brain research, even creativity, a domain that I would previously firmly place within the confines of the "mind", is now partially explained as a neurological phenomenon.

>> It’s hard to accept, isn't it? Especially for creative persons and their creations, that their "minds" and "souls" can be explained as mere firing of neurons and their interactions with chemical compounds. Nevertheless, the body of empirical evidence cannot be ignored.

> Ah, but I don't think empirical evidence can completely explain things as complex as creativity. Even Resnik cautions against putting too much weight on data from researches on split-brain and other neurological damage. In fact, there are those with severe brain damage are capable of creative thought in some way yet at the same time degenerative brain diseases are found to degrade creativity. And the effects of drugs on the creative process may not be as direct as some pharmacological explanations suggest. For one, although I THINK I'm immensely creative whenever CH3CH2OH is in my bloodstream, the products that result are not thought to be even remotely creative by the rest of society.

>> I agree. Although chemicals can directly affect the brain, its effects on complex brain functions such as creativity are still not completely established. Even though research indicates that creative person are more likely to have greater psychopathology than normal people, I think the term "divine madness" as applied to creativity is more of a rhetoric than a psychiatric diagnosis.

> In other words, no matter how crazy Van Gogh appears to be, truly insane people do not invent Post-Impressionism.

>> Right.

> That guy who holds the world record for the most complicated surname put it clearly when he said that creative people have a rooted sense of reality no matter how rich their imagination may be.

>> I don't think Mike C. holds the world record for the most complicated surname. And I also don't think there is such a category for world records. Still, I tend to view the "madness" of creative persons as quite different from the "madness" of institutionalized persons.

> Mike is very eloquent in presenting the creative individual as a being of contradictions -- humble yet proud, passionate yet objective, rebellious yet conservative. I can really relate to his description because I see myself as a being of contradictions as well.

>> Insightful yet stupid? Or maybe you have had enough thinking for the day, and ready for another session of CH3CH2OH therapy?

The Ancients don't know everything

> here's a thought, Aristotle said nothing can come from nothing, or everything must have come from something.

>> if that is so, then an entirely original creation must be an impossibility.

> right, and it does seem to make sense. however, when you really think about it, it implies an infinite regress --
that there is no true beginning for everything.

>> so?

> well, in a sense it implies that products of the human
mind cannot be pinpointed to a certain starting point, and
we just as might think the "Mona Lisa" as an eventual result
of "thought processes" of the early planktons.

>> that is taking what Aristotle said to somewhat extreme
levels! maybe, and perhaps being influenced by Plato, he must
have regarded the Muses as the prime movers, the fountain of
everything creative. in this way, the Forms does not need to
have a predecessor because they are the purest or the Ideal
of creations.

> that is a fragile concept. that's why I like Kant better.
I especially like how Kant differentiates between those who
only learns and imitates and those who actually produce
something of value. more importantly is the distinction
between the products that can be learned by others (such as
Newton's Laws of Motion) and products that can never be
reproduced by anyone other than the creator (such as works
of art).

>> Kant is just dense reading, I can never go on after just
several pages of him.

> so are all these philosophers!

12.4.06

psychological health and creativity

> have you ever noticed how the theme of “psychological freedom” constantly appear in most theories on creativity? It’s as if psychological freedom is a requirement for creative thought.

>> that’s true. In some form or another, the concept of psychological freedom is viewed to be a necessary prerequisite and a catalyst for further development and expression of creativity. Maslow acknowledges this as an internal locus – an absence of fear. Rogers went on further and sets the concept in a more concrete manner as a conditional requirement which can be set both internally or externally.

> well, it does make sense. Whether we are talking of everyday creative expression or the big C, the absence of any distractors can enhance the creative process. and yet, think of this: the scientists and researchers of Stalinist Russia, who lived on daily fear of their lives, produced some of the world’s greatest discoveries and invention – sometimes beating their counterparts in the west who lived in freedom, cold coffee, and stale donuts.

>> that comparison is a bit limited because the competition you are talking abut mainly concerns with military research. Even so, you make a point. If Rogers were to observe the conditions (physically and psychologically) that the scientists of the former Soviet Union (especially during the reign of that psychopath) were subjected to, he would have several hundred (or several thousand) counterexamples for his X and Y conditions.

> since we are speculating what-ifs anyway, what do you think might be Stalin’s reaction if he had read these works that advocate for psychological freedom? Do you think he might apply the principles to his researchers?

>> probably not. I don’t think he has what Rogers calls “Extensionality”. Mad as he is, Stalin is also known for being so stupidly stubborn. Plus, I think the idea of freedom, in whatever form, is repugnant to him. He is one of the prime counterexamples I have for those who equate psychopathology with creativity.

> well, for Maslow, general creativity and psychological health go together. In fact, as one of his thesis, self-actualization requires psychological health.

>> and even if he does differentiate between everyday creativity and big C, I believe that a great majority of creative people (regardless of how big their “c” is) are happy and psychologically healthy.

> you’re such an optimist, aren’t you?

>> and also a coldly calculating person. I’m full of contradictions. It’s kind of surprising that I liked the case-study approach employed by Gruber and Wallace in this particular discussion of creative evolution. I would normally have preferred a more quantitative experimental approach, but their approach is very interesting.

> your perspective seems to fit well with that quote from Piaget: “I’m not really interested in individuals, in the individual. I’m interested in what is general...”

>> and never expecting that rainbows can be explained by the properties of a humble raindrop? That is indeed the case especially in the field of creativity. Isn’t it ironic, that in studying creativity, the most unique of all psychological processes, we aim to fit everything in a general overarching theory? Perhaps the best explanations are provided by the individual creative person. Unique processes to explain unique talent, as explained by unique individuals.

> but isn’t his facets just another way of categorization and their approach still aims to fit creativity into a general system?

>> in a way, yes. The facets systematize creativity and are used to explain the general process of creative thought. However, their case-study approach is what makes their systematization unique and interesting. Instead of a surgeon operating on hundreds of hearts to finally conclude the effects of cholesterol, they just operated on a few exemplary ones. However, the uniqueness of each case-study puts a limitation on the generalizability of the results. There is a limitation that what Gruber and Wallace discussed regarding their cases might not be generalized for all creative processes.

> so is it a choice then between qualitative and qualitative methods? Which is more suitable for investigating the creative process?

>> that is a question the individual researcher have to answer on his or her own.

11.4.06

I had a happy childhood (I think)

> Happy childhood leads to mediocrity.

>> And how did you arrive to that earth-shattering conclusion? Since you will be hunted down by child welfare activists soon, you should be concise in telling me your line of thought leading you to this.

> Well, several findings seem to show that trauma in childhood often leads to the production of great geniuses. Simonton, Feldman, Gardner, and several others mentioned that traumatic events are usually present among individuals who became eminent later on. And when you look at it from a Freudian perspective, it kind of makes sense. Freud attributes most psychopathology to events that occurred during childhood. We know that there is a correlation between psychopathology and creativity.

>> What Feldman said was that trauma had an effect on motivation, and not on the development of creativity itself. In other words, no amount of trauma can make an average individual into a Mozart.

> I agree, but what I’m also saying is that normal and boring childhood would lead to a normal and boring adulthood. The manifestations of “overexcitability” especially during the early years, tend to predict creativity. In fact, according to Dabrowski and Piechowski, if this overexcitability is not manifested, there’s a good chance that creative development is inhibited.

>> What does that have to do with your position that normal happy childhood leads to mediocrity? Normal people can manifest overexcitability. And it is not just emotional, overexcitability is manifested in five different dimensions. Although I would agree with you that childhood plays an important role in the development of potential for creativity. However – and this is important – I do not believe that it is the most significant factor.

> Of the factors or dimensions that affect the development of creativity, which one do you think is the most important and one that you can probably relate?

>> If you are only considering Feldman’s seven dimensions, I would have to say the cognitive processes (and this would include emotional) for the development of little “c” and social/cultural contextual aspects for big “C”. Big “C” goes beyond the individual – being at the right place at the right time is probably more important than raw talent in this aspect. Almost all the geniuses flourished at the time when their society or culture encouraged their potential to develop. True, these geniuses were gifted with exceptional individual abilities, but we cannot say that their abilities are greater compared to those who achieved less.

> So if you are stuck on an island, your hopes of becoming eminent is basically nil. That’s sad, considering that most of the world’s population are relatively isolated in terms of “supportive environment”. Only a few can be said to live within a society large, open, and diverse enough to promote the development of big “C”.

>> Not only that, even within a smaller group (such as a local community or even a family) the rise of eminence is limited to a very select few. The second-best will often be forgotten, clustered along with the others and classified together as “the rest”. This is because the development of great talent requires great effort of a number of people. Bloom’s study that only a small percentage of families produced more than one highly talented child shows that it takes so much effort such that most families only have resources to produce just one, if ever at all.

> Indeed. Sad, don’t you think? And although it is true that creativity is never developed in isolation, the world only remembers individuals who have stood out, and rarely the predecessors whose collective shoulders were stood upon.
Anyway, I should feel lucky that I was an only child.

>> But then I think you had a happy childhood, and thus according to your statement, will be doomed to mediocrity.

> Oops, that backfired! But hey, Howe mentioned some categories where people with happy childhood can develop into creative adults. Add that to the fact that I was probably a prodigy when I was a child...

>> Ah, now you seek support from Howe’s categorizations. It’s interesting to note that Howe seems to confuse creative achievement with being a prodigy. In his examples, he treats someone who can solve square roots mentally as a child as on the same level as a child who can compose original music. You might be the former kind of child prodigy.