I am re-reading Daniel Kahneman’s book, Thinking Fast and Slow.
Kahneman and his late partner won a Nobel Prize a few years ago for their pioneering research into the workings of the human mind. His big idea is that we humans have two systems of thinking. System 1 is a thin-slicing, quick-judging and casual thinking system that we rely on for most of our daily decisions – like whether we’ll pull out of the intersection with that coming car so far away. System 2 is more analytical and it’s what we rely on for hard mental work – critical thinking, algebra problems and the like.
The book is well worth wading through, but the reason I am blogging about it here is that in today’s reading I got to the part where he talks about creativity. He cites the work of a psychologist named Sarnoff Mednick who studied creativity and came to conclude that creativity is “associative memory that works exceptionally well.” It’s about intuition and the point is that we don’t do well with our intuitive (System 1) thinking when we are under stress – when we are threatened, unhappy or uncomfortable. In those conditions, System 2 takes over and intuitive thinking is impossible.
It reminded me of an interview I just heard on Youtube. It was David Crosby of Crosby, Stills and Nash and he was talking about songwriting. He said that all of this business about writing coming out of pain is baloney and that he only writes well when he is happy.