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December 14, 2018

How to look at art: Creative people characterised by both rationality and emotionality

Art by MASK Prize participant Antony Okari, 20
Art by MASK Prize participant Antony Okari, 20

Creativity is a type of thinking that helps us solve problems in a new way. In the rapidly changing life and work environment, this skill is instrumental to our survival and success. It helps us transcend our limitations and advance the quality of life. Creative intelligence is the ultimate intelligence, but it cannot exist without emotions. Being creative is not only about thinking, it is also about feeling.

Emotions are evaluations. When we feel emotions about something — joy, anger, boredom, pain, etc. — we express our relationship with it. “It is astonishing how little many people know about their feelings. Their life passes by as a stream of featureless experience and events," says Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his ‘creativity' book. "Contrary to this state of apathy, creative individuals are in a close touch with their emotions.”

Recent neuroscience studies show that creative people have greater connections between the areas of their brain associated with control and imagination. In other words, creative people are characterised by rationality as well emotionality. The studies also show that people who experience intense emotions on a regular basis scored higher on measures of creative capacity. Openness to emotions is a good predictor of creativity. "There's something about living life with passion and intensity that is conducive to creativity," says phycologists M Ceci and V Kumar of University of Pennsylvania. Furthermore, the ability to experience the mixed emotions, such as excitement and frustration, for example, in unusual environments (like aeroplanes and bicycles suspended from the ceiling at IDEO) signals increased creativity.

The division between emotions and thinking was given an undeserved prominence by the 18th and 19th centuries' Enlightenment intellectuals, who saw intellect and feelings as separate realms of experience. They considered feelings a ‘dangerous froth of undisciplined mind'. Formal academic education promoted logic and deduction ability and marginalised feelings. This division is present to this day and has been catastrophic to education.

In the 1920s, this view was opposed by a belief that education should be child-centred rather than knowledge-based. Developing feelings, the knowledge of self, was considered to be more important than knowledge of the world. This was another ‘extreme' that reinforced the division between the rational mind and emotions.

Educating emotions does not mean less of academic education. Intelligence plays a key role in our emotions. Likewise, intelligence does not mean suppressing feelings. Feelings enable intelligence. They work hand-in-hand with the rational mind and guide more than 85 per cent of all our decisions.

Thinking and emotionality are intertwined. The link is not an ‘opinion'. It is a biology. The part of the brain responsible for feelings, amygdala, is at the centre of the brain's neural circuitry. When something emotional activates the amygdala, it activates other parts of the brain.

The thinking-feeling relationship is at the heart of the creative process in all fields, art, science, technology, and business. If you wish to be creative and thus successful, your emotions and thinking should be in sync. Learn about your emotions: assess how you spend your time and how you feel about your various activities. And, critically important, find a way of expressing what moves you in words, ideas, images or music.


Alla Tkachuk, is a creativity specialist, founder of MASK creativity-training movement. If you need advice how to strengthen creativity at your school, university, or company, [email protected] 


©Alla Tkachuk, 2017

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