Can Creativity Be Taught? The Science Behind Imagination

Harvard University

Shelley Carson is an associate of the psychology department and a lecturer at Harvard University. Her research on creativity has been featured on CNN, the Discovery Channel, the BBC, and NPR. She is author of the award-winning book “Your Creative Brain: Seven Steps to Maximize Imagination, Productivity, and Innovation in your Life,” and co-author of “Almost Depressed: Is Your (or Your Loved One’s) Unhappiness a Problem?” Dr. Carson received the Petra T. Shattuck Excellence in Teaching Award at Harvard.


What is Creativity and Can it be Taught?

Creativity can improve your mood and your overall well-being, psychologists have known that for many decades. But what is creativity? Can you become more creative? According to Harvard Professor Shelley Carson, the answer is definitely yes.

Human creativity, sometimes rising to the level of genius, is essential to our ability to survive and thrive as a species. In the arts, it enriches our lives, transforms our moods, and transmits culture from generation to generation, while in the sciences it improves our health and living conditions, and opens the worlds of outer space and inner space to our scrutiny and amazement. In addition, in our business and personal lives it allows us to stay competitive and adds breadth to our everyday experiences. But where do genius and creativity come from? Is it determined by our genes? Can creativity be taught and enhanced?

Can Creativity be Taught or is it an Inherent Trait?

In this talk, Dr. Carson will take you inside the brain to glimpse the creative process. She will describe some of the fascinating findings from neuroscience and molecular biology that are revealing the mysteries of creativity, genius and imagination. You will learn how we can use information gleaned from the lives of “mad” geniuses to enhance our own unique expression of creativity. You will also participate in creativity-evoking exercises and receive valuable tips for amping up your creative life.

This fascinating presentation reveals why creativity isn’t something only scientists and artists enjoy; in fact, all of us use our creative brains every day at home, work, and play. Each of us has the ability to increase our mental functioning and creativity by learning to move flexibly among several brain states. The trick is in understanding networks that connect our brain’s “hot spots” for creative thought and then developing the ability to “turn on” these networks. Each of us is stronger in some areas than others – some are great at brainstorming but weak in follow-through. Others experience creative block because they’re too critical or inhibited. And some people squelch their imaginations when they’re feeling low, rather than recognize that there is creative potential in a negative mood.

The Connection Between Creativity and Neuroscience 

Professor Carson will discuss the latest findings in neuroscience using brain imaging and neuropsychological testing. She’ll lead the class through a variety of entertaining exercises, quizzes and problem sets designed to help us identify and temper our own most effective brainsets – and strengthen those that are lower-performing.

Neuroscience research indicates that there are two creative brain states. One handles problem solving, planning, and reasoning. You use this “pathway” when you’re actively focused on a problem or task. Your other pathway comes into play during idea incubation, immersion, and free association. You’re quite often in this brain state: when you’re sleeping, in the shower, in a boring meeting, or when your mind is wandering. You can train yourself to switch your brain state according to your task, or you can structure your tasks to take advantage of your current brain state. These are just two of the techniques that you’ll learn in this brand new online class.

Can creativity be taught? Learn more.

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barbara ann.fields

Creative way of presenting Creativity

I see that I am more creative than I thought. Thank you for showing me that.

1 year ago
Maggie Olmstead

Interesting and informative

At first I thought this was going to be too airy-fairy to be useful, but as it went on, the lecture presented many useful ideas and exercises that were new – to me, at least. I got a lot out of it, and came up with a couple of ideas for new projects.

3 months ago
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