The Tears of a Clown: Understanding Comedy Writers

What are comedy writers like? Stylistically, professional humorists and other funny individuals span a variety of flavors of humor. There is some evidence that they are more creative and verbally intelligent and adept at self-monitoring. Those who tell jokes for money tend to have had to overcome adversities in life and seem to use humor as a coping mechanism.

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Robin Williams’ Comedic Genius Was Not a Result of Mental Illness, But His Suicide Was

Of course, the media is writing a lot today about the link between mental illness and creativity in light of Robin Williams’ suicide.

Here’s the thing: Williams’ comedic genius was a result of many factors, including his compassion, playfulness, divergent thinking, imagination, intelligence, affective repertoire, and unique life experiences.

In contrast, his suicide was strongly influenced by his mental illness.

This romanticism of mental illness needs to stop. The media needs to offer accurate views of what it’s like to have a real debilitating mental illness and make a call for more funding to support those who are suffering instead of focusing on cutesy connections to genius that are not even supported in the scientific literature.


The Real Link Between Mental Illness and Creativity

The Tears of a Clown: Understanding Comedy Writers

Being Suicidal: What it feels like to want to kill yourself

US Suicide Helpline: 1-800-273-8255 UK: 08457 90 90 90 

STUDY ALERT: Sex differences in the relationship between white matter connectivity and creativity

Sex differences in the relationship between white matter connectivity and creativity 

Sephira G. Ryman, Martijn P. van den Heuvel, Ronald A. Yeo, Arvind Caprihan, Jessica Carrasco, Andrei A. Vakhtin, Ranee A. Flores, Christopher Wertz, Rex E. Jung 

Creative cognition emerges from a complex network of interacting brain regions. This study investigated the relationship between the structural organization of the human brain and aspects of creative cognition tapped by divergent thinking tasks. Diffusion weighted imaging (DWI) was used to obtain fiber tracts from 83 segmented cortical regions. This information was represented as a network and metrics of connectivity organization, includ- ing connectivity strength, clustering and communication efficiency were computed, and their relationship to individual levels of creativity was examined. Permutation testing identified significant sex differences in the relationship between global connectivity and creativity as measured by divergent thinking tests. Females demonstrated significant inverse relationships between global connectivity and creative cognition, whereas there were no significant relationships observed in males. Node specific analyses revealed inverse relationships across measures of connectivity, efficiency, clustering and creative cognition in widespread regions in females. Our findings suggest that females involve more regions of the brain in processing to produce novel ideas to solutions, per- haps at the expense of efficiency (greater path lengths). Males, in contrast, exhibited few, relatively weak positive relationships across these measures. Extending recent observations of sex differences in connectome structure, our findings of sexually dimorphic relationships suggest a unique topological organization of connectivity underlying the generation of novel ideas in males and females.

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STUDY ALERT: Improving fluid intelligence with training on working memory: a meta-analysis

Improving fluid intelligence with training on working memory: a meta-analysis 

Jacky Au & Ellen Sheehan & Nancy Tsai & Greg J. Duncan & Martin Buschkuehl & Susanne M. Jaeggi 

Working memory (WM), the ability to store and manipulate information for short periods of time, is an impor- tant predictor of scholastic aptitude and a critical bottleneck underlying higher-order cognitive processes, including con- trolled attention and reasoning. Recent interventions targeting WM have suggested plasticity of the WM system by demon- strating improvements in both trained and untrained WM tasks. However, evidence on transfer of improved WM into more general cognitive domains such as fluid intelligence (Gf) has been more equivocal. Therefore, we conducted a meta- analysis focusing on one specific training program, n-back. We searched PubMed and Google Scholar for all n-back training studies with Gf outcome measures, a control group, and healthy participants between 18 and 50 years of age. In total, we included 20 studies in our analyses that met our criteria and found a small but significant positive effect of n- back training on improving Gf. Several factors that moderate this transfer are identified and discussed. We conclude that short-term cognitive training on the order of weeks can result in beneficial effects in important cognitive functions as mea- sured by laboratory tests.

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STUDY ALERT: Lesion mapping of social problem solving

Lesion mapping of social problem solving 

Aron K. Barbey, Roberto Colom, Erick J. Paul, Aileen Chau, Jeffrey Solomon and Jordan H. Grafman

Accumulating neuroscience evidence indicates that human intelligence is supported by a distributed network of frontal and parietal regions that enable complex, goal-directed behaviour. However, the contributions of this network to social aspects of intellectual function remain to be well characterized. Here, we report a human lesion study (n = 144) that investigates the neural bases of social problem solving (measured by the Everyday Problem Solving Inventory) and examine the degree to which indi- vidual differences in performance are predicted by a broad spectrum of psychological variables, including psychometric intelli- gence (measured by the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale), emotional intelligence (measured by the Mayer, Salovey, Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test), and personality traits (measured by the Neuroticism-Extraversion-Openness Personality Inventory). Scores for each variable were obtained, followed by voxel-based lesion–symptom mapping. Stepwise regression analyses re- vealed that working memory, processing speed, and emotional intelligence predict individual differences in everyday problem solving. A targeted analysis of specific everyday problem solving domains (involving friends, home management, consumerism, work, information management, and family) revealed psychological variables that selectively contribute to each. Lesion mapping results indicated that social problem solving, psychometric intelligence, and emotional intelligence are supported by a shared network of frontal, temporal, and parietal regions, including white matter association tracts that bind these areas into a coordi- nated system. The results support an integrative framework for understanding social intelligence and make specific recommen- dations for the application of the Everyday Problem Solving Inventory to the study of social problem solving in health and disease.

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STUDY ALERT: Cybernetic Big Five Theory

Cybernetic Big Five Theory 

Colin G. DeYoung 

Cybernetics, the study of goal-directed, adaptive systems, is the best framework for an integrative theory of personality. Cybernetic Big Five Theory attempts to provide a comprehensive, synthetic, and mechanistic explanatory model. Constructs that describe psychological individual differences are divided into personality traits, reflecting variation in the parameters of evolved cybernetic mechanisms, and characteristic adaptations, representing goals, interpretations, and strategies defined in relation to an individual’s particular life circumstances. The theory identifies mechanisms in which variation is responsible for traits in the top three levels of a hierarchical trait taxonomy based on the Big Five and describes the causal dynamics between traits and characteristic adaptations. Lastly, the theory links function and dysfunction in traits and characteristic adaptations to psychopathology and well-being.

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Letter from a “Gifted” Kid

Last year I gave a talk in Vancouver on testing, intelligence, and potential. Most of the audience consisted of parents and educators. But it’s not their questions that stuck most in my mind.

I was especially struck by the points made by a young kid. I told him if he wanted to write something to me, I’d publish it in some form. Well, he recently sent me the letter below.

His name is Omar, and he is in gifted education. He makes some great points. Maybe it’s time we stopped fighting so many battles among ourselves and listen more to children.

They keep it real.

my name is Omar, I am twelve, and lots of parents say things to each other like: “my child is gifted because my child doesn’t have to work hard and your child does need to work hard so he/she is not gifted.” I say as a “gifted” child myself all gifted kids have to work hard its only 1 or 2 subjects that we need a challenge or find easy. if you say things like or related to: my child is gifted because my child doesn’t have to work hard and your child does need to work– just be quiet and keep to yourself, because it really doesn’t matter. as a gifted child I believe (I have no clue whether other gifted kids feel this way) that if I get labelled gifted highly able or even highly gifted I don’t really care because I was always like that I have no point of reference. so instead of proving your child gifted to the teachers,school staff, etc. and making your child undergo seemingly endless tests just let them do what they want. if they like it where they are leave them be if they want something new THEN AND ONLY THEN let them get tested and always leave the option to go back to where they were.

Take it from a gifted kid

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STUDY ALERT: Deliberate Practice and Performance in Music, Games, Sports, Education, and Professions: A Meta-Analysis

Deliberate Practice and Performance in Music, Games, Sports, Education, and Professions: A Meta-Analysis 

Brooke N. Macnamara, David Z. Hambrick, and Frederick L. Oswald


More than 20 years ago, researchers proposed that individual differences in performance in such domains as music, sports, and games largely reflect individual differences in amount of deliberate practice, which was defined as engagement in structured activities created specifically to improve performance in a domain. This view is a frequent topic of popular- science writing—but is it supported by empirical evidence? To answer this question, we conducted a meta-analysis covering all major domains in which deliberate practice has been investigated. We found that deliberate practice explained 26% of the variance in performance for games, 21% for music, 18% for sports, 4% for education, and less than 1% for professions. We conclude that deliberate practice is important, but not as important as has been argued.

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