What Barron found was that the most creative thinkers all exhibited certain common traits: an openness to one’s inner life; a preference for ambiguity and complexity; an unusually high tolerance for disorder and disarray (and vodka and orange juice if we’re talking about Capote); and the ability to extract order from chaos.
Is solitude the secret to unlocking our creativity?
Jory MacKay

Thank you for this informative article—all of the research you cite on creativity is very thought-provoking.

I’m particularly intrigued by the following question: Which comes first… a preference for ambiguity and complexity or the practices we use to “reduce the activation of the Executive Attention Network?”

My background is in education, so I approach this through constructivist learning theory. I feel that many of us fear of ambiguity and complexity, so we tend to oversimplify and assimilate new data into existing mental models as rapidly as possible. By not living with ambiguity for any length of time, we avoid accommodating and revising our mental models to fit new data. This prevents us from correcting our misconceptions and—based on your article—thinking creatively.

To help students construct more sophisticated mental models, I encourage them to adopt a mindset that appreciates cognitive dissonance. Instead of avoiding ambiguity and complexity, these students seek it out. From there, they begin adopting the practices you discuss. One thing I look for to see if my approach is working is whether students are relaxed, task-oriented, and open-minded when taking on new problems, or if they are tense, narrowly focused, and more concerned with being right or wrong. Very interesting!