Creativity and the Brain

Illustration by Lucinda Drake

Whether one is painting a masterpiece or simply considering a new way to solve a problem, they are using creative thinking. It is a common misconception that only artistic or intelligent individuals can be creative, when in reality any person is capable of producing new and valuable ideas.

Bill McClendon, a psychology teacher at Franklin High School, explains that the reason some people seem more creative than others is due to the environment in which they grew up. “Studies show that factors such as expertise, imaginative thinking, and intrinsic motivation [behavior that is driven by internal rewards] play big roles in creativity. But the most important factor is a creative environment.” When there are multiple opportunities for a person to be exposed to creative expression (such as friends, family, and teachers who encourage imaginative thinking), that person will grow up to be more open to creativity. “If a person is placed in a situation that discourages creativity, or offers very little support for creativity, then they will seem to lack creativity when compared to others who have access to those environments,” explained McClendon. To put this into perspective, a person cannot expect to suddenly have the ability to drive a car if they have not been taught first, or if they have not been given the opportunity to be exposed to learning how to drive. When it comes to creative thinking, it all boils down to exposure, and how often one is exposed to that particular environment.

With the increase in technology usage, McClendon believes that it has helped with “allow[ing] a person to express their ideas in new ways.” Smartphone apps like Pinterest can encourage users to craft a DIY project or dish that they have never made before. The internet itself allows for a person to be exposed to many different ideas that can encourage creativity and thinking outside the box. When asked which side of the brain he believes is the most responsible for creative thinking, McClendon responded with the idea that both sides work together in processing imaginative and creative thoughts. “I think both sides probably play a role. One theory is that some ‘big picture’ ideas may originate in the right hemisphere, and the detail of that big picture is added by the left hemisphere.”

When it comes to producing new and valuable ideas, anyone can be creative. Creativity can be applied anywhere, in any given situation. Creativity can include anything from solving complex problems to composing your own music. Either way, the brain proves yet again, just how fascinating and wondrous it can be.

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