Illustration by Jorge Mascarenhas.

Beliefs about Creativity

Evidence for an insight bias
October 17th, 2021

Via ScienceDirect: "Research finds that creative ideas are often generated via two cognitive pathways: persistence and insight. Persistence refers to the effortful, deliberate, and sustained search for creative solutions. In contrast, insight refers to the effortless and unexpected comprehension of new ideas or solutions, colloquially called the ‘A-ha!’ moment. People report both pathways in their subjective experiences of creativity and both pathways promote creative performance. Yet, emerging research suggests that people’s beliefs about the creative process do not reflect these dual pathways. It appears that people associate creativity with effortless insight and undervalue persistence; a phenomenon we refer to as an insight bias. We next present evidence for an insight bias, consider the mechanisms behind it, and discuss the implications of these (faulty) beliefs. [...]

The studies summarized above provide evidence that people undervalue persistence and overvalue insight. Understanding these (faulty) beliefs is important because they influence how people choose to engage in creative work. For instance, undervaluing persistence and believing one’s best ideas come early leads people to disengage from creative work more quickly, which limits creativity. Valuing insight leads people to expect more creativity when in the bathtub than at one’s workstation and to discount the value of others whose accomplishments draw on persistence rather than innate genius.

What causes the insight bias? One explanation relates to the subjective experience of idea generation itself. Specifically, the feeling of effortfulness experienced while generating ideas (also called metacognitive fluency). Generating ideas via insight feels less effortful and less mentally exhausting than generating ideas via persistence. This more pleasant experience of insight, versus persistence, leads people to think and feel more positively about insight. For example, the research where people underestimated how many ideas they would generate while persisting found that the feeling of effortfulness experienced during initial idea generation accounted for the discrepancy between predictions and performance. Similarly, people’s belief that creativity declines across an ideation session was explained by people’s pessimism about the difficulty of producing ideas over time. Future research should continue to test this and other mechanisms."

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"The Mouth of Krishna" by Anna Cabrera & Ángel Albarrán. "In any part of the universe there is a whole universe –Hamlet saw the infinite space in a nutshell; William Blake saw a world in a grain of sand, a heaven in a wild flower, and eternity in an hour."

How to do philosophy

by Robert Paul Wolff
August 23rd, 2021

Via Lars P. Syll: "A contest was announced to see who could do the best job of carving up a side of beef. The judge was announced as a famous chef, who had earned two Michelin stars. Attracted by the prize money, a butcher and an analytic philosopher entered the contest.

The Analytic Philosopher went first. A fresh side of beef was placed on a large wooden table, and he approached to begin.  He was dressed in freshly pressed chinos and a button-down shirt. The Analytic Philosopher laid a leather case on one corner of the table and opened it, revealing a gleaming set of perfectly matched scalpels, newly sharpened. He selected one scalpel carefully and addressed the side of beef. After inspecting its surface carefully, he raised his hand and made the first cut, a precise slice in a perfectly straight line. Working steadily, but with meticulous care, he proceeded to make slices and cross slices until he had completed the carving of the beef, a task that took him the better part of an hour. When he had finished, he stepped back, wiped the scalpel clean on a piece of paper toweling, replaced it in the case, and with a bow to the judge, withdrew.

The butcher was next up. Her side of beef was on a table next to that on which the Analytic Philosopher had been working. She was dressed in overalls and a butcher’s apron, on which one could see spots of blood and stains from her work. She took out a cleaver, a saw, and a sharp butcher’s knife, and went to work on her side of beef, wasting no time. Bits of fat and gristle flew here and there, some ending up on her apron and even in her hair, which she had covered with a net. She whistled as she worked at the table, until with a flourish, she put down her saw, bowed to the judge, and stepped back.

The judge examined each table for no more than a moment, and then without the slightest hesitation, handed the prize to the butcher. The Analytic Philosopher was stunned. "But," he protested, "there is simply no comparison between the results on the two tables. The butcher’s table is a shambles, a heap of pieces of meat, with fat and bits of bone and drops of blood all over the place. My table is pristine — a careful display of perfectly carved cubes of meat, all with parallel sides and exactly the same size. Why on earth have you given the prize to the butcher?"

The Judge explained. "The butcher has turned her side of beef into a usable array of porterhouse steaks, T-bone steaks, sirloin steaks, beef roasts, and a small pile of beef scraps ready to be ground up for chop meat.  She clearly knew where the joints were in the beef, how to cut against the grain with the tough parts, where to apply her saw.  You, on the other hand, have reduced a perfectly good grade-A side of beef to stew meat."

Moral: When butchering a side of beef, it is best to know something about what lies beneath its surface.
Observation: This is also not a bad idea when doing Philosophy."

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Stil from the film 'The Invisible Woman' (1940).

Values

My pyramid
June 5th, 2021

Humor
Faith – Honesty – Serenity
Creativity – Intuition – Joy – Love – Music – Presence.

Take another step toward what matters.

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Sarah Maple, The Worlds as we know it, 2020.

Zoom fatigue

...and their simple fixes
March 6th, 2021

Via Stanford University: "In the first peer-reviewed article that systematically deconstructs Zoom fatigue from a psychological perspective, published in the journal Technology, Mind and Behavior on Feb. 23, Bailenson has taken the medium apart and assessed Zoom on its individual technical aspects. He has identified four consequences of prolonged video chats that he says contribute to the feeling commonly known as Zoom fatigue. [...]

1) Excessive amounts of close-up eye contact is highly intense.
Both the amount of eye contact we engage in on video chats, as well as the size of faces on screens is unnatural. [...]
Solution: Until the platforms change their interface, Bailenson recommends taking Zoom out of the full-screen option and reducing the size of the Zoom window relative to the monitor to minimize face size, and to use an external keyboard to allow an increase in the personal space bubble between oneself and the grid.

2) Seeing yourself during video chats constantly in real-time is fatiguing.
Most video platforms show a square of what you look like on camera during a chat. But that’s unnatural, Bailenson said. 'In the real world, if somebody was following you around with a mirror constantly – so that while you were talking to people, making decisions, giving feedback, getting feedback – you were seeing yourself in a mirror, that would just be crazy. No one would ever consider that,' he added. [...]
Solution: Bailenson recommends that platforms change the default practice of beaming the video to both self and others, when it only needs to be sent to others. In the meantime, users should use the hide self-view button, which one can access by right-clicking their own photo, once they see their face is framed properly in the video.

3) Video chats dramatically reduce our usual mobility.
In-person and audio phone conversations allow humans to walk around and move. But with videoconferencing, most cameras have a set field of view, meaning a person has to generally stay in the same spot. Movement is limited in ways that are not natural. 'There’s a growing research now that says when people are moving, they’re performing better cognitively,' Bailenson said.
Solution: Bailenson recommends people think more about the room they’re videoconferencing in, where the camera is positioned and whether things like an external keyboard can help create distance or flexibility. For example, an external camera farther away from the screen will allow you to pace and doodle in virtual meetings just like we do in real ones. And of course, turning one’s video off periodically during meetings is a good ground rule to set for groups, just to give oneself a brief nonverbal rest.

4) The cognitive load is much higher in video chats.
Bailenson notes that in regular face-to-face interaction, nonverbal communication is quite natural and each of us naturally makes and interprets gestures and nonverbal cues subconsciously. But in video chats, we have to work harder to send and receive signals.
Solution: During long stretches of meetings, give yourself an audio only break. 'This is not simply you turning off your camera to take a break from having to be nonverbally active, but also turning your body away from the screen,' Bailenson said, 'so that for a few minutes you are not smothered with gestures that are perceptually realistic but socially meaningless.' [...]


He notes that humans have been here before. 'When we first had elevators, we didn’t know whether we should stare at each other or not in that space. More recently, ridesharing has brought up questions about whether you talk to the driver or not, or whether to get in the back seat or the passenger seat,' Hancock explained. 'We had to evolve ways to make it work for us. We’re in that era now with videoconferencing, and understanding the mechanisms will help us understand the optimal way to do things for different settings, different organizations and different kinds of meetings.' "

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Mosi-oa-Tunya (the smoke that thunders), Biodiversity Heritage Library.

Year of the Metal Ox

Starting now
February 12th, 2021

Via Wikipedia: "The Ox (牛) is the second of the 12-year periodic sequence (cycle) of animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac related to the Chinese calendar, and also appears in related calendar systems. The Chinese term translated here as ox is in Chinese niú (牛), a word generally referring to cows, bulls, or neutered types of the bovine family, such as common cattle or water buffalo. The zodiacal ox may be construed as male, female, neuter, and either singular or plural. The Year of the Ox is also denoted by the Earthly Branch symbol chǒu (丑). The term zodiac ultimately derives from an Ancient Greek term referring to a circle of little animals. There are also a yearly month of the ox and a daily hour of the ox (Chinese double hour, 1:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m.). Years of the oxen (cows) are cyclically differentiated by correlation to the Heavenly Stems cycle, resulting in a repeating cycle of five years of the ox/cow (over a sixty-year period), each ox/cow year also being associated with one of the Chinese wǔxíng, also known as the five elements, or phases: the Five Phases being Fire (火 huǒ), Water (水 shuǐ), Wood (木 mù), Metal (金 jīn), and Earth (土 tǔ). The Year of the Ox follows after the Year of the Rat (the first year of the zodiacal cycle) and it then is followed by the Year of the Tiger."

Thanks to Swantje Lichtenstein!

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Keizo Tsukamoto, from JCA Annual 6 (1985).

Courage to change the things I can

Why being kind to others is good for your health
January 7th, 2021

Via BBC Future: "Studies show, for instance, that volunteering correlates with a 24% lower risk of early death – about the same as eating six or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day, according to some studies. What’s more, volunteers have a lower risk of high blood glucose, and a lower risk of the inflammation levels connected to heart disease. They also spend 38% fewer nights in hospitals than people who shy from involvement in charities.

And these health-boosting impacts of volunteering appear to be found in all corners of the world, from Spain and Egypt to Uganda and Jamaica, according to one study based on the data from the Gallup World Poll."

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End of 2020

Ten things I’ve learned this year
December 31st, 2020

Book 2020 I fell in love with Yotam Ottolenghi's SIMPLE recipes. I started at the beginning; just finished the Pasta chapter. It is a bit embarrassing to admit, but this is how I started to learn how to cook, finally.

Bubble Got ultra lucky and found myself in a pandemic lockdown bubble with two extraordinary artists, and their three year old daughter. Thank you Anke Eckardt and Marcus Schmickler for keeping me company in the weirdest of times, and trusting me with your best project so far.

Film To have a wild, almost alien creature teach you about communication, trust, and letting go seems like a huge privilege to me. I am amazed what Craig Foster experienced through his relationship with an octopus female, and that he was able to put it all into an intriguing documentary. My Octopus Teacher provided a lesson in humility for me.

Friends (1984) I don’t know why or how this song by Amii Stewart popped up in my playlist this year – so 80s... From now on it will remind me of a very unique summer in the middle of an international pandemic, including a friendly, short but energizing crush. No harm done ;-)

Lockdown After commuting with planes, buses, cars, etc. came to a shrieking halt the air pollution in my city started to improve a lot. As one of the consequences I can now experience the moon at night in 3D. Wow, I am very grateful.

Perception Children believe that everything is going to be alright, that their parents are almighty, that they themselves are almighty too (and therefore in the position to give advice), and they believe in justice. Now that I’ve grown up, I know that all four are perceptual illusions. A transformative teaching.

Quote All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks is full of important quotes. The definition of love which bell hooks uses in her book might serve this list best, but you should not hesitate to read the book in full.
"Imagine how much easier it would be for us to learn how to love if we began with a shared definition. The word 'love' is most often defined as a noun, yet all the more astute theorists of love acknowledge that we would all love better if we used it as a verb. I spent years searching for a meaningful definition of the word 'love,' and was deeply relieved when I found one in psychiatrist M. Scott Peck's classic self-help book The Road Less Traveled, first published in 1978. Echoing the work Eric Fromm, he defines love as 'the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth.' Explaining further, he continues: 'Love is as love does. Love is an act of will – namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.' Since the choice must be made to nurture growth, this definition counters the more widely accepted assumption that we love instinctually."

Spazierengehen The streets in Cologne and also the parks became too crowed to take a relaxed walk and keep the required distance to others at the same time. So, my friends and I started to meet at local cemeteries, which were still pretty abandoned – thanks to society’s denial of death, I guess. Spazierengehen became my new clubbing. The most inspiring tombstone I saw simply says: HONESTY, PURITY, UNSELFISHNESS, LOVE.

Transmedia Forms It took me seven years to get the funding, and then build a new studio for the Transmedia Forms concentration at the Institute for Music and Media with it. At the end of 2020 the studio finally became a reality. I could not have done it without my amazing colleagues Carsten Goertz, Falk Grieffenhagen, Marcus Schmickler, and Martin Störkmann. I deeply appreciate their dedication and knowledge.

Word I know, there are still unsolved security issues, and Jitsi is the good sister. But in 2020 Zoom was where I did spend almost as much time as in my bed. I experienced meetings with one thousand people; that was mindblowing. To me therefore the word of the year is, to zoom.

So, here we are... And what is next?

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"Untitled (Greenwood, Mississippi)", 2001, signed William Eggleston and numbered 31/40 and also with copyright stamp on verso. Iris print, image 46 x 68 cm. From BAM Photography Portfolio II published by Serge Sorokko Gallery, San Fransisco.

Shout to the top

Does the human brain resemble the Universe?
November 28th, 2020

Via Università di Bologna: "An astrophysicist of the University of Bologna and a neurosurgeon of the University of Verona compared the network of neuronal cells in the human brain with the cosmic network of galaxies, and surprising similarities emerged. […]

The human brain functions thanks to its wide neuronal network that is deemed to contain approximately 69 billion neurons. On the other hand, the observable universe can count upon a cosmic web of at least 100 billion galaxies. Within both systems, only 30% of their masses are composed of galaxies and neurons. Within both systems, galaxies and neurons arrange themselves in long filaments or nodes between the filaments. Finally, within both system, 70% of the distribution of mass or energy is composed of components playing an apparently passive role: water in the brain and dark energy in the observable Universe. […]

Probably, the connectivity within the two networks evolves following similar physical principles, despite the striking and obvious difference between the physical powers regulating galaxies and neurons."

Always in deep appreciation for my favorite blog ever, the new shelton wet/dry. Love you!

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Usagi is a careless fourteen-year-old girl with an enormous capacity for love, compassion, and understanding. Initially believing herself to be an ordinary girl, she is later revealed to be the reincarnated form of the Princess of the Moon Kingdom, and she subsequently discovers her original name, Princess Serenity.

All about love – new visions

by bell hooks
October 14th, 2020

Rereading All about love – new visions by bell hooks for one of my seminars. Again and again I find her words so empowering. What could be more important and appropriate today than considering love, again.

"Hence the truism: Love is letting go of fear. Our hearts connect with lots of folks in a lifetime but most of us will go to our graves with no experience of true love. This is in no way tragic, as most of us run the other way when true love comes near. Since true love sheds light on those aspects of ourselves we may wish to deny or hide, enabling us to see ourselves clearly and without shame, it is not surprising that so many individuals who say they want to know love turn away when such love beckons. "
(p.186, All about love – new visions by bell hooks, HarperCollins Publishers, 2001)

"We are all capable of changing our attitudes about falling in love. We can acknowledge the click we feel when we meet someone new as just that – a mysterious sense of connection that may or may not have anything to do with love. However it could or could not be the primal connection while simultaneously acknowledging that it will lead us to love. How different things might be if, rather than saying 'I think I'm in love,' we were saying 'I've connected with someone in a way that makes me think I'm on the way to knowing love.' Or if instead of saying 'I am in love' we said 'I am loving' or 'I will love.' Our patterns around romantic love are unlikely to change if we do not change our language."
(p.177, All about love – new visions by bell hooks, HarperCollins Publishers, 2001)

More by bell hooks: "Fools for love".

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Pan Tau was able to change his appearance into a puppet, to conjure up miscellaneous objects or to do other magic.

Is happiness U-shaped everywhere?

Age and subjective well-being in 145 countries
September 12, 2020

Via my all-time favorite blog the New Shelton wet/dry: "A large empirical literature has debated the existence of a U-shaped happiness-age curve. This paper re-examines the relationship between various measures of well-being and age in 145 countries. […] The U-shape of the curve is forcefully confirmed, with an age minimum, or nadir, in midlife around age 50 in separate analyses for developing and advanced countries as well as for the continent of Africa. The happiness curve seems to be everywhere." Continue reading Here: Journal of Population Economics

Via Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization: "I examine the relationship between unhappiness and age using data from eight well-being data files on nearly 14 million respondents across forty European countries and the United States and 168 countries from the Gallup World Poll. […] Unhappiness is hill-shaped in age and the average age where the maximum occurs is 49 with or without controls."

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