Art Vent

Letting the Fresh Air In

The brain, age & creativity

May 20, 2008 - 9:45am -- Carol Diehl
I’m citing this article from today's NY Times, Older Brain Really May Be a Wiser Brain because I like the image, above, by Yarek Waszul, and also it confirms, as I always suspected, that the reason we can’t immediately bring a fact or name to mind as we grow older, is because there’s just so much in there. This is because, the article says, with age we develop a gradual widening of attention, an ability to take in more of the information available to us, and therefore may be distracted by seemingly extraneous points a younger person might overlook.

"Such tendencies can yield big advantages in the real world, where it's not always clear what information is important, or will become important."
“It may be that distractibility is not a bad thing,” said Shelley H. Carson, a psychology researcher at Harvard, whose work was cited in the book (Progress in Brain Research), “It may increase the amount of information available to the conscious mind.”
The article also suggests that creative people exhibit this wide attention span throughout their lives, and that a “reduced ability to filter and set priorities…could contribute to original thinking.”

This explains why, in seventh grade, I was never able to get over Mrs. Kluver’s coiled, movie queen hair and bulbous high-healed shoes to actually concentrate on what she was saying. Obviously I knew what was important even then.


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