The Eureka Factor
AHA Moments, Creative Insight, and the Brain

John Kournios & Mark Beeman

L 313: Concerning the “Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking” and their decrease over time. Somehow I am sceptical. The author does not give me any reason to think that they tests something valuable. I think that creative thinking is real and valuable. I am on guard as this sounds too much like a ‘self-help’ book.

L 614: The tumor and fire examples are very good. About a dozen more good examples follow.

L 759: The chess example is good. I think that one could say that John, the amateur, was ‘outside the book’ as a consequence of being a bit lucky and an amateur. It would take hard work for the Grandmaster to tell if there were strength in the position. The two metaphors ‘out of the box’ and ‘out of the book’ are close cognates, of course.

The explanation of how experts memorize a chess board from a real game is interestingly like the ‘mutual information’ idea of information compression. This is especially relevant in running or even walking. You subconsciously plan a couple of steps ahead, even with builtin contingencies. If your foot slips the correct reaction is a reflex that is ready-at-hand—a reflex pre adapted to whether there is ice on the ground.

L 867: OK, this is more than self-help book.

L 1151: The peculiar deficit resulting from a lesion of the temporal and parietal lobes junction is fascinating. The ability to make unconscious deductions to expand the frame.

L 1299: I often close the lid of my computer while debugging code. Another trick is to change the font.

L 1338: “But how does this state of openness come about?” I heard somewhere the simple idea that a chemical shift in the blood stream changes activation thresholds on some class of synapses.

L 1350: “We proposed that this area monitors the rest of the brain for the presence of competing ideas, especially the quiet, nonobvious ones.” I think that for such an idea to ‘be in play’ it must have some piece of hardware devoted to it. Such pieces are expensive and rare. Often a solution must combine some of these ideas and some sort of cache of recent candidate ideas must be maintained.

L 1361: I think that our ‘analytic mind-set’ is newer than ‘insight’. Not that it is better than the older insight, but that it can solve some problems that insight cannot.

L 1393: See this.

L 1428: “It [a line of research] shows that sleep brings out the remote associations that are embedded in memories.” Any programmer familiar with linked lists knows of a slow process searching for items that point to a given item. Sometimes these tasks can be amortized and batched.

L 1444: “Neurologist Jeffrey Ellenbogen and colleagues found that people were better at remembering such implied facts after a nap, compared with people tested after a sleepless break.” Now that is an important observation! Subconscious logic was happening.

L 1458: “Some studies have shown incubation to increase solution rates compared with uninterrupted work.” This bears on my frame ideas.

L 1532: I remember all but one of the street addresses that I have ever lived at, but none of the phone numbers.

L 1813: The evolutionary advantage of these phenomena needs to be explained.

L 2095: The “remote associates problem” bears on my hypotheses. “None of this occurs for triplets like “gravy”/“ elm”/“ lobster,” because they don’t have a single unconscious solution word that connects with the problem words. That’s why people read such triplets more slowly.” I must work on the connection!

L 2261: Comparing this book to “Blink”, I prefer this book. To speak of intuitives bothers me. I would be content to speak of people who do well in certain kinds of tests.

L 2493: ‘Negative priming’ is an important phenomenon. L 2894 Of some advise to create: “The idea is that by making yourself aware of your assumptions, you can systematically examine each one to ascertain whether it is correct or necessary.” This is advise to be analytic to innovate. It might work sometimes.

In summary this book includes many reports of clever tests that any theory of thought must be compatible with.