Psychology researchers in Singapore have found that acting out metaphors or imagining them, helps people become more creative.
These ideas of using metaphors to gain creative insight, are closely related to the ideas we have covered in this blog: “How to think like Einstein“.
Metaphors and thought experiments
Einstein is known to have imagined himself riding a beam of light across space. Albert was fully aware of philosophical thinking processes, because he started reading philosophy when he was 12 years old. The imagined metaphor, is a close cousin of the “thought experiment“, which has been present in philosophy for more than 2,000 years. Einstein was able to leverage this old type of thinking to gain historical insights.
But Einstein also mixed pure imagination with his personal physical experience of the world. For example, he compared the feeling of gravity with the feeling you get when riding a car while it accelerates. (see General relativity)
Why does the embodied metaphor work?
Why is thinking through a metaphor just as effective, for creativity as performing it?
Psychologists have repeatedly said that our minds (bodies) have a hard time telling apart what we imagine vividly from what happens in reality. In other words, our imagination may be key ally in our ability to trigger the benefits from the mind-body level of thinking.
Whether we use only our imagination or we combine our imagination with our actual physical experiences, metaphors are a doorway to great insight.
- io9 – “Five Embodied Metaphors That Actually Foster Creative Thinking”
- SAGE journals – Psychological Science – Angela K.-y. Leung, School of Social Sciences, Singapore Management University, Level 4, 90 Stamford Rd., Singapore 178903, Singapore E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- University of Illinois: “General Relativity”
- Wikipedia: “Mirror Neurons” (NeuroScience)
- Wikipedia: “Thought Experiments”
- Pitt.edu – Department of History and Philosophy of Science: “Einstein’s most famous thought experiment”
- Dyslexia Research Institute. “The Dyslexia Research Institute Mission”
- NetPlaces.com – “Einstein’s study of philosophy”
Related in this blog:
- Human Built-in Empathy?
- Mirror Neurons and our Non-verbal Communication System
- Embodied Cognition: It’s Not What You Think It Is
- Types of Thinking
- How to think like Einstein
- How to Think Like Einstein: Simple Ways to Break the Rules and Discover Your Hidden Genius
- Albert Einstein and Relativity for Kids: His Life and Ideas with 21 Activities and Thought Experiments (For Kids series)
- What If….Collected Thought Experiments in Philosophy
- The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience
- Teaching Creativity Through Metaphor: An Integrated Brain Approach (Contemporary topics for teachers series)
Disclaimer: All my blog posts are “rough drafts” and subject to random improvements over time. All typos and broken links are free. Do your own fact checking and think for yourself.