Creativity-An Unlikely Super Power in the Search for Truth
It makes sense that intellectual humility is a foundational behavior for identifying truthful statements because it leads to an open-mindedness to new ideas. As it turns out, this behavior is also a fundamental one of a creative thinker. It might seem that creativity would be an unlikely skill set to possess that could enhance one’s ability to determine the truth. But creative traits like curiosity, the ability to create connections, and open-mindedness, all greatly benefit the person in search of the truth.
Being open-minded as well as being open to new experiences can be seen in creative individuals who prefer novelty rather than routines. As outlined in a Psychology Today article on the basics of creativity, this openness can be seen in how people seek out new people and destinations as well as process the different emotions they encounter. It is this constant state of self-challenge to involve yourself in new experiences that promotes growth as well as challenge to our current perceptions. What if you, however, prefer the comfort found in known experiences? How can you develop an openness to new ideas and experiences? Toria Sheffeild looked into this topic and shared her findings. Among them was a concept Alex Lickerman, Ph.D, wrote about in Psychology Today. For many people, he states, it is just fear of the unknown that keeps many people from trying new experiences. While these fears most often do not actually come to pass, our preoccupation with them keeps our minds from thinking about the positive things that can and do result from a new experience.
One way to get past this fear is to catastrophize and maximize a given situation. To do this, think of something you would like to do but are hesitant to try. For instance, if you would like to pursue photography but are a complete amateur, you may be intimidated to start. Identify a plan to start you on your journey, like signing up for a community college class. Now, create a two-column chart with one column headed with Fears and the other with Cheers. Starting with the Fears column, list all of the potential negative effects of taking this class. You might list things like having a boring instructor, encountering concepts that go over your head, and finding out you don’t want to pursue photography after all. Now push yourself to envision the positive effects of taking that course and write these ideas in the Cheers column. Possible good experiences could include getting to know new people, learning new content that spurs your interest, and finding out about other classes that may interest you. Now, when fears of starting on this new adventure seem to overwhelm you, refocus your thoughts on the positive outcomes of pursuing this experience.
To assist you in identifying possible new experiences, let curiosity be your guide. The Mayo Clinic’s Katherine Zeratsky encourages her patients to think about what they are drawn to and start from there when identifying a new class or activity to try. Albert Einstein instructs us to, “Never lose a holy curiosity,” and it is sage advice. For curiosity is defined as a strong desire to learn something new and powers the spirit of inquiry. Through the action of quenching this thirst for knowledge, new information is acquired. As noted in the previous post, asking questions is the first step to gain new information and, as luck would have it, also nurtures the curiosity found in a creative person.
As these new experiences and encounters are amassed, new perspectives are uncovered. This in turn helps the brain create new connections with information previously internalized. Being able to create new connections between ideas is how new learning occurs. Steve Jobs noted, “Creativity is just connecting things.” The ability to connect leads to imagining possible explanations and options.
One way to practice making connections is through practicing synectics. To do this, choose 2 items, the more dissimilar the better, and try to find as many ways as possible they are alike. For instance, think about how a cake and a pencil are alike. At first, it may be difficult to come up with ideas, but by allowing yourself plenty of time to reflect, you should notice ideas will finally start popping into your brain, with the most unusual ones generally arriving the longer you think about it. What could be possible answers? They both are round, they both have layers, they both have something different hiding underneath the outer coating. ( i.e. a cake under the icing and lead inside the wooden outside covering.) To make it easier for you, try finding objects with more obvious similarities; to make it harder, find objects that are seemingly very much dissimilar.) The more practice with this type of activity, the more it encourages creative thinking.
So, the openness to new experiences and the accompanying curiosity leads to new learning. The connections made allow for alternatives to be imagined and considered. Notice how much overlap there is with the first two critical thinking behaviors discussed thus far. Creativity seems to be an outgrowth of intellectual humility. The open-mindedness found in both behaviors allows curiosity to flourish through a search for possible alternatives grounded in questioning. This leads to the creation of connections between previous and newly acquired knowledge that set one up to be able to reflect and possibly revise previously held beliefs.
Creativity is not such a far-fetched behavior to possess in the quest for the truth. You might say, they are opposite sides of the same coin. By possessing both intellectual humility and a creative mind, you have set your mind up for success in identifying the truth. What better superpowers to possess in these times with so much information but so little truth?