Scott Fahlman,   December 8, 2010
As a follow-up to my previous post: I ran into this interesting New York Times article today. I think it’s pretty compatible with the view I presented in my article. The author, Benedict Carey, talks about “flashes of inspiration” in terms of exploring loose or “out of the box” connections among ideas, rather than the more structured path-following that we do in “analytic mode”.
He presents some evidence from neuroscience and cognitive science suggesting that careful analytic thinking and exploratory, out-of-the-box thinking are really two rather distinct modes of thought. You will need to do some of each, switching back and forth, in order to solve hard scientific problems.
He also cites some evidence that being in a happy, playful, carefree mood can lead to greater success in “out of the box” mode — something that most creative scientists know instinctively, and that some of the people running funding agencies would do well to ponder.