I (along with many others, no doubt) have always wondered where ideas come from. Scientists have long searched for the parts of the brain responsible for creativity and imagination, but so far the research has yielded no concrete results.

As I was reading through Science Daily the other day, I came across this fascinating article, titled “How does our brain form creative and original ideas?” The article talks about a study that sheds a bit of light on how creativity really works…

According to the research, “creative thinking apparently requires ‘checks and balances’.” A group of scientists at the University of Haifa in Israel found that various parts of the brain are activated in order to produce a creative idea. Basically, the brain activates all of these different parts–including cerebral networks that contradict each other–in order to ensure that the idea isn’t just creative, but applicable.

These scientists carried out a study divided into two parts:

Part 1:  Participants were given 30 seconds to come up with creative, original ways to use common objects. The more unique the idea, the higher the score. The more common the idea, the lower the score.

Part 2: Participants were given 30 seconds to describe the objects as accurately as they could.

During both parts of the test, the more original the answer, the more the participants’ brains showed high amounts of activity in the “associative” areas. These areas of the brain are responsible for background brain activity when the brain isn’t concentrating–the parts that fire up when you’re daydreaming.

However, those areas didn’t act alone. For the more original answers, the “conservative” parts of the brain also lit up. These parts of the brain relate to rules and norms for society. Oddly enough, the stronger the two areas lit up, the more original the answer.

What does this mean? Scientific data aside, it comes down to one simple fact: for a creative idea to work, it has to be both unique and believable. It has to not only be original, but it has to fit within the rules and norms that define our lives. The best ideas aren’t just the ones that are way outside the box, but they also have to be reasonable and applicable!