Do You See What I See ?

DAVIDE DONGHI
Feb 1, 2018 · 4 min read
Courtesy Image of Unsplash

“Minds are like parachutes , they only function when open” as Thomas Dewar puts it.

Want to be more creative ? Open yourself up to more experiences.

The idea that some people see more possibilities than others is central to the concept of creativity.

One aspect of our personality that appears to drive our creativity is called openness to experience, or openness.

It is one of five basic dimensions of personality traits. Openness best predicts performance on divergent thinking tasks and also predicts real-world creative achievements, as well as engagement in everyday creative pursuits.

But what qualifies as “openness,” exactly?

According to Kaufman and Gregoire, openness as a personality trait “hinges on engagement and exploration” and can take on many forms, “from a love of solving complex problems in math, science and technology, to a voracious love of learning, to an inclination to ask the big questions and seek a deeper meaning in life, to exhibiting intense emotional reactions to music and art.”

People who have a high level of openness to experience tend to become visionary tech entrepreneurs, world travelers, spiritual seekers, and original thinkers.

At a neurological level, it has a lot to do with dopamine, a neurotransmitter that prompts us to explore our experience. Infact openness is about “valuing information,”. “People with high openness show high dopamine projections at the potential of acquiring information.”

“At the broadest level, dopamine facilitates psychological plasticity, a tendency to explore and engage flexibly with new things, in both behavior and thinking,” Kaufman explains. “Plasticity leads us to engage with uncertainty — whether it is pondering a new app to meet a consumer demand or questioning the next step in our own life path — exploring the unknown and finding reward in seeking its positive potential.”

That’s the key, finding reward in seeking its positive potential. Where some of us might be deterred by the potentially negative consequences of seeking new experiences — failure, distraction, humiliation, uncertain outcomes — people who are more open to experience seem to believe that the potential of positive consequences is, in and of itself, worth the risk.

Kaufman also underlines: “With plasticity comes enhanced cognitive and behavioural engagement and exploration and, frequently, a commitment to personal growth. Of course, there is no guarantee that our open engagement will yield a positive outcome. For most creative people, however, the engagement itself is enough if it provides fodder for innovation. Indeed, research shows that psychological plasticity is associated with high levels of idea generation, engagement with everyday creative activities, and publicly recognised creative achievement.”

The American Psychologist and Author recently described the four factors that make up openness.

They are:

· Explicit Cognitive Ability: Traditional measures of intelligence (i.e., IQ tests), including fluid reasoning, mental rotation, verbal analogical reasoning, and working memory.

· Intellectual Engagement: A drive to engage in ideas, rational thought, and the search for truth.

· Affective Engagement: A preference for using emotions, gut feelings, and empathy to make decisions.

· Aesthetic Engagement: A preference for aesthetics, fantasy, and emotional absorption in artistic and cultural stimuli.

He found intellectual engagement to be associated with creative achievement in the sciences and affective engagement and aesthetic engagement to be linked with artistic creativity.

In other words openness to experience is a “very active process,” Kaufman says. “That’s what genes do; that’s what dopamine does — they energize.”

Individuals with high intellectual engagement are driven to discover ideas as a scientist does.

Those with affective engagement are driven to investigate emotions as a poet does, and others with aesthetic engagement are driven to find beauty as a painter does.

While it’s possible to be high in all these engagement drives, research indicates that you can’t employ your mechanical and social intelligences at the same time.

Today psychologists have different accounts of how this process works and the research is in continue progress.

One theory is that it has to do with “latent inhibition,” or your mind’s tendency to filter out information as irrelevant.

In one study, Harvard psychologist Shelley Carson found that college students who were high creative achievers were seven times more likely to have reduced instead of enhanced latent inhibition. People with high openness tend to have low latent inhibition, and thus more original ideas, or so the argument goes.

In short as lead author Anna Antinori, a psychologist at the University of Melbourne in Australia, told: “Their brains are able to flexibly engage with less conventional solutions.”

Then this people who have a high openness to experience enjoy learning new things, which means they’ll be more likely to get into the state of flow when they proceed with their work.

But reach this state of flow is not easy. It means that you spend a lot of time investigating your own intellectual and emotional life, that you need to get away from other people’s demands on your ears, eyes, and mind.

Immagine to be in the moment, focusing completely on a single task, and finding a sense of calm and happiness in your work, forgeting about others, about the world around you and losing track of time.

In conclusion open up your minds could be a better way to be more creative seeing the world differently and things that others miss, but there is also a dark side to the “permeability of consciousness” that characterises open people.

Infact openness has been also linked to aspects of mental illness, such as proneness to hallucination.

So psychologists want to put the attention and increase the awareness that there is a logical consequence between seeing more and seeing things that are not there.

DAVIDE DONGHI

Writer, Author, Psychologist, Career Coach

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