Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

steepholm steepholm
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Peripatetic Philosophy
Following a link from andrewducker, I read that the boffins of Stanford have concluded that walking boosts creativity. This doesn't surprise me, inasmuch as it reflects my subjective experience, but it's interesting see the subject tackled this way.

On the other hand, Daniel Kahn points out in his book on thinking that if you ask someone to work out a multiplication sum (complex enough to need working out) in their head while they are walking, they are likely to stop in order to do it. It seems that the two activities compete for the same mental resources.

With this in mind I'd tentatively suggest that the way in which walking boosts creativity isn't so much by adding some new element that wasn't there before, as by helping to block out interference from distracting mental processes that would otherwise get in the way. States of creativity (like safe driving) often seem to involve a degree of withdrawal or shutting out, as well as of opening up, and I suspect walking helps achieve that.

By the way, having rejected mindfulness as a solution to motorway panics (as per my recent post), I'm now trying sugar free gum for the same purpose, and with much greater success, having heard that the act of chewing tends to suppress fear. I suspect it performs much the same "shutting down by interference" function as walking, in fact. Just don't try to do both at the same time.

It might explain the flood of poetry I completed after last year's walking holiday on Rousay and why I have stuff germinating after the tour of Westray this year.

Exactly. In a less scientific age you might have attributed it to the beauty of nature, but we know better now, thank goodness!

"helping to block out interference from distracting mental processes that would otherwise get in the way. "

Absolutely, and there's plenty of evidence to testify for that. Asimov tells a story in his memoir of being stuck with a problem in his chemical research in grad student days, and deliberately going out to see a frothy movie in hopes that it'd get his mind out of the circular rut of unsatisfactorily dealing with it. This worked. (So often does "sleeping on a problem.")

Another factor might be, as some gadget maker years ago said, that walking or similar exercise helps blood get to the brain. That fits my experience; walk a few minutes, stop and think, repeat.


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