Essential Life Skill #4: Making Connections
This is the basis of what we call creativity: not a deus ex machina scrawling on a tabula rasa, but the mind’s constant search for interesting new ways of grouping the data we’re constantly taking in.
Jason Gots is a New York-based writer, editor, and podcast producer. For Big Think, he writes (and sometimes illustrates) the blog "Overthinking Everything with Jason Gots" and is the creator and host of the "Think Again" podcast. In previous lives, Jason worked at Random House Children's Books, taught reading and writing to middle schoolers and community college students, co-founded a theatre company (Rorschach, in Washington, D.C.), and wrote roughly two dozen picture books for kids learning English in Seoul, South Korea. He is also the proud father of an incredibly talkative and crafty little kid.
Pattern recognition is one of the things human brains are exceptionally good at. In childhood, we learn to group things in the physical world by size, shape, color, number, and so on. But by adolescence we’re able to make abstract connections between things and ideas that are extremely dissimilar. This is the basis of what we call creativity: not a deus ex machina scrawling on a tabula rasa, but the mind’s constant search for novel combinations – for interesting new ways of grouping the data we’re constantly taking in.
For this reason, some of the most promising work being done in the field of artificial intelligence is based on pattern-recognition models that build up from simple to more complex. Still, no machine has (yet) come close to replicating humans’ amazing connection-making power - the power that enables us to do extraordinary things like building machines that attempt to replicate our own intelligence, or inventing the soufflé.
While connection-making builds upon the grouping and matching games we play as children, there is no known limit to our ability to deepen this skill in adulthood. According to Ellen Galinsky, author of Mind in the Making and president of the Families and Work Institute, logic puzzles, challenging mystery novels, even the daily challenges we face at work can build our cognitive flexibility – the ability to recombine the familiar in innovative ways. This kind of cognitive flexibility has obvious advantages in our lives and careers, as it enables us to find solutions to problems that leave others stumped. In a world where the problems are only becoming more complex, good problem-solvers will always be in high demand.
Video: Essential Life Skill #4: Making Connections, with Ellen Galinsky (free preview: full video available with subscription to Big Think Mentor
In a fast-changing world, only our higher-order thinking skills can keep us aware, engaged, and growing. In The Seven Essential Life Skills, her workshop for Big Think Mentor, Mind in the Making author Ellen Galinsky teaches lessons learned over decades of psychological research into how humans learn throughout the lifespan. The seven essential skills she teaches here, and demonstrates with stunning video footage of classic psychological experiments, are invaluable tools for adapting to, learning from, and thriving within a world in rapid flux.
The seven essential life skills you’ll hone in this workshop are:
Focus and Self-Control
Taking on Challenges
Self-Directed, Engaged Learning
Image Credit: Shutterstock.com
Giving our solar system a "slap in the face"
- A stream of galactic debris is hurtling at us, pulling dark matter along with it
- It's traveling so quickly it's been described as a hurricane of dark matter
- Scientists are excited to set their particle detectors at the onslffaught
The climate change we're witnessing is more dramatic than we might think.
A lazy buzz phrase – 'Is this the new normal?' – has been doing the rounds as extreme climate events have been piling up over the past year. To which the riposte should be: it's worse than that – we're on the road to even more frequent, more extreme events than we saw this year.
Once again, our circadian rhythm points the way.
- Seven individuals were locked inside a windowless, internetless room for 37 days.
- While at rest, they burned 130 more calories at 5 p.m. than at 5 a.m.
- Morning time again shown not to be the best time to eat.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.