Creative Thinking Involves Whole Brain

photo brain


The picture is from artist Danielle Feliciano, 2011, who made it for her Kickstarter project ‘Unlocking the right brain’ to gather money to letter pressing a work book on creative visual thinking. The picture is a creative representation of the expertise creative thinking. Most people agree that creative thinking is an important skill, in business as well as in the personal realm, to succeed in life. But what is creative thinking? I like to go with this definition.

“Specific thought processes which improve the ability to be creative. Being in an optimal state of mind for generating new ideas. To think deliberately in ways that improve the likelihood of new thoughts occurring. To maximize the ability of the brain to think of new ideas. The ability to think of original, diverse and elaborate ideas. A series of mental actions which produce changes and developments of thought. The process of exploring multiple avenues of actions or thoughts.”

In this definition, these aspects of creative thinking stand out: thought process, creative, generating, and new ideas. Some people are experts in creative thinking and others have mastered it themselves. Some great examples of the latter are Steve Jobs, Leonardo Da Vinci and J.K. Rowling. Some great teachers in creative thinking are Edward de Bono, Michael J. Gelb and Steven Pressfield.

Creative thinking is an intangible thought process that takes place in the brains and this picture displays that very well, in the centre of the picture stands the left and right brains, and each side of the brains are surrounded by other things.

The picture shows at the outer side of the left brain hand drawings of a ruler, a chess piece, a bee and part of a honey structure, a pen, some mechanic component. The bee has been magnified to make it notable. The proportions of the items are quite similar, none of them really stands out nor pushes the other to the background, which proof that they are all relevant. These items aren’t just drawn as an embellishment of the brain. Each of them represent a function of the left brain. The ruler depicts linear thinking, the chess piece stands for logic and judgment, the bee represents science and research, the honey structure reflects logical thought and the mechanic components depicts analytical thinking.

At the outer side of the right brain, flowers, a green bird, a man’s head, musical notes, a brush, a needle, a ball and something that resembles a pearl necklace have been drawn. Compared to the items at the left side of the brain, these items are a bit bigger. This may suggest that the focus of this painting is on the right side of the brain, the side where most people think that creative thinking takes place. The brush stands for art, the musical notes represent music, the green bird depicts the big view, the overview, the pearl stands for pattern comprehension, the two flowers depict spatial awareness, the head stands for holistic thought, the ball for flow of thought and process, and the needle shows the ability to find a solution for something difficult. From all the items at the right side, the bird, the head and the ball are proportionally bigger than the rest. A possible reason may be that those objects symbolized the qualities that the artist needed in the daunting process of creating her book.

This image reinforces the common thought that creative thinking takes place in the right brain, which functions are holistic thought, spatial awareness, intuition, creativity, art and music. The left brain functions are logic, analytic thought, language, reading, writing and science. The idea that creative thinking takes place in the right brain is old news, as mentioned in the online post ‘The real neuroscience of creativity’ by Scott Kaufman, who writes that according to the latest findings, “Creativity doesn’t involve a single brain region or single side of the brain.” The picture has divided the functions of both brains, as explained before, by focusing more on the functions of the right brain. The picture, however, acknowledges the importance of both brains by showing them in equal proportion. Scott Kaufman says, “..the entire creative process– from preparation to incubation to illumination to verification–consists of many interacting cognitive processes (both conscious and unconscious) and emotions.
Depending on the stage of the creative process, and what you’re actually attempting to create, different brain regions are recruited to handle the task.”  Three large-scale networks are involved in the neuroscience of creativity, those are, the executive attention network, the imagination network, and the salience network. Depending on the stage of the creative process, these networks are activated and may work together to get a job done. The image lacks to show which brain regions are recruited in the entire creative process, how they interact together and thereby doesn’t visually depict the entire creative process.

The core idea is that the entire whole brain is involved in the creative process, the way depends on the stage of the creative process. This raises the question how one can effectively use both brains to get the most out of creative thinking.



1 Infinite Innovations Ltd. Web. 3 November 2014

Kaufman, Scott Barry. “The real science of creativity, Scientific American.” Scientific American. Scientific American, Inc. 19 August, 2013. Web. 3 November 2014


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