Copying myself

The conversation turned to how creativity is affected by different modes of consciousness. BPS Fellow and panellist Chris Frith (UCL and University of Aarhus) said that it’s in their nonconscious processes that more creative people differ from the less creative. We’re prone to copy our past actions and to copy the behaviours of others, he said, but creative people are less constrained by primes and expectations.

There’s evidence that this freer form of nonconscious thought often manifests in people with schizophrenia and with autism – for example, they’re less susceptible to visual illusions such as the ‘hollow mask effect’, which are driven by visual expectations. There are claims that drugs can help induce this unconstrained mode of thought, and recent studies have also linked creative benefits to grogginess and mild intoxication for the same reason. In the same vein, Allan Snyder (University of Sydney) claims to have improved people’s creativity by using TMS to ‘knock-out’ their frontal lobes. Frith stressed that conscious processes are also required to communicate original ideas to others – what he called ‘effective creativity’. ‘The truly creative person is changing the consciousness of us all,’ he said. (The Psychologist, June 2012)


Most people are other people. Their thoughts are some one else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation. (De Profundis, 1897)

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