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STUDY ALERT: Grounding Creative Giftedness in the Body

November 16, 2012 in Study Alerts

Grounding Creative Giftedness in the Body

Kendall J. Eskine and Scott Barry Kaufman

Research in active and experiential learning suggests that conceptual development, discovery, and creative cognition in general are enriched by physical interacting with content in a manner that uses multiple modal domains. Again, this is consistent with, and indeed predicted by, theories of grounded and embodied cognition, which hold that sensoriperceptual experiences not only become incorporated into one’s conceptual representations but that they also motivate conceptual development (Barsalou, 1999, 2010; Glenberg, 1997; Lakoff & Johnson, 1980).

With respect to dual-process theories, these embodied states are ideal candidates for the implicit, automatic, and spontaneous bodily states that naturally accompany cognition in real-time and in educational contexts. We argue here that researchers and educators should focus on creating rich sensory and perceptual experiences for their students that can be used as a foundation for understanding abstract course content. Accordingly, these basic lower-level experiences might be used to scaffold deeper conceptual representations (Williams, Huang, & Bargh, 2009). In this way, this approach complements Simonton’s (2004) stance on conceptual combination. According to this view, the manner in which various pre-existing concepts are organized plays a significant role in creativity. Creative ideas thus emerge as a byproduct of various unique combinations of pre-existing concepts, a process that is moderated by Darwinian chance, genius, and other factors. Grounded cognition’s contribution points to the fascinating possibility that basic embodied states are stored as patterns of activity in the brain that are available for the same conceptual combination processes that have traditionally been reserved for “ideas” or “concepts” typically fashioned from Type 2 processes. Thus, embodied states might be more important ingredients to creative and gifted minds than previously thought.

This process of creative conceptual combination, however, need not be conscious, and when coupled with Type 1 processes like sensoriperceptual states, it becomes clear how creative cognition benefits from embodied experience, as evidenced in the previously discussed research. Creative giftedness is clearly a complex phenomenon, yet our everyday, mundane physical experiences might play a more significant role than previously thought, and future research and practice should consider the grounded cognition literature and its implications for higher-order cognition. As Henri Poincare famously pointed out, “The mind uses its faculty for creativity only when experience forces it to do so.”

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