The Secret To Creativity, Intelligence and Scientific Thinking
Research shows that creativity and intelligence are linked with the physical connections in our brains. Here’s how to connect the dots.
There’s a key difference between knowledge and experience and it’s best described like this:
The image is from cartoonist Hugh MacLeod, who came up with such a brilliant way to express a concept that’s often not that easy to grasp.
The image makes a clear point—that knowledge alone is not useful unless we can make connections between what we know. Whether you use the terms “knowledge” and “experience” to explain the difference or not, the concept itself is sound.
Lots of great writers, artists and scientists have talked about the importance of collecting ideas and bits of knowledge from the world around us, and making connections between those dots to fuel creative thinking and new ideas.
This is a really fun, inspiring topic to read about, so I collected some quotes and advice from my favorite creative thinkers about the importance of making connections in your brain. I’ve added emphasis to the important parts, but if you have time I’d recommend reading the whole post and even digging into the sources I’ve linked to.
To start with though, I want to look at some research that shows intelligence is closely linked with the physical connections in our brains.
Intelligence and connections: why your brain needs to communicate well with itself
Research from the California Institute of Technology showed that intelligence is something found all across the brain, rather than in one specific region:
The researchers found that, rather than residing in a single structure, general intelligence is determined by a network of regions across both sides of the brain.
One of the researchers explained that the study showed the brain working as a distributed system:
“Several brain regions, and the connections between them, were what was most important to general intelligence,” explains Gläscher.
The study also supported an existing theory about intelligence that says general intelligence is based on the brain’s ability to pull together and integrate various kinds of processing, such as working memory.
At Washington University, a research study found that connectivity with a particular area of the prefrontal cortex has a correlation with a person’s general intelligence.
This study showed that intelligence relied partly on high functioning brain areas, and partly on their ability to communicate with other areas in the brain.
Aside from physical connectivity in the brain, being able to make connections between ideas and knowledge we hold in our memories can help us to think more creatively and produce higher quality work.