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Mark Beeman, a cognitive neuroscientist at Northwestern University, has found that certain simple behaviors result in more creative outcomes. In his analysis of laboratory experiments, Beeman identified insight–that eureka moment when a new idea appears like a bolt from the blue–as the most essential characteristic of creativity. Without insight, there simply can be no creativity. But insight is the fruit of another labor, says Beeman. Rigorous analysis is the necessary first step toward achieving insight because it collects the data on which the imagination can work on.
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During laboratory tests, Beeman was able to connect analysis and creativity to specific physical behavior. When test subjects looked at a series of unrelated words–say “pine”, “crab”, and “sauce”–the analysis phase was defined by fewer head movements and less blinking. When subjects blinked more frequently and divided their attention between the words and other object, insight was more likely to occur provided they had already carefully analyzed the words. Beeman also identifies the importance of humility to creativity: “You won’t win a Nobel Prize for rearranging your closet more effectively, but it could be important for daily life.”