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Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah…

Imagine: How Creativity Works

by Jonah Lehrer

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I stopped reading this after reading this article about the author.


He's been fabricating quotes, recycling material and blatantly plagiarizing for a long time it seems, not worth my time. ( )
  LJMax | Aug 21, 2015 |
I wish this book has examined more how an individual can foster creativity, and focused less on how businesses can encourage creativity in their employees. Other than focusing too much on corporate activities which I found uninteresting, I liked the book quite a bit. ( )
  wishanem | Jan 27, 2015 |
I liked it until I read that he had made up quotes from Bob Dylan and subsequently resigned from The New Yorker because of it. It makes me question much of the book. ( )
  Pickiej | Jan 24, 2015 |

A fun amusing read with great anecdotes. Primary criticism is that it doesn't get sufficiently descriptive regarding the psychology and science of creativity. The anecdotes are fun, I just wish they took it a bit further. ( )
  lincolnpan | Dec 31, 2014 |
Jonah Lehrer. Imagine: How Creativity Works. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012.

Book Review by Kate Robinson

As a creative writer, I am perennially fascinated by imagination and the science behind it. Jonah Lehrer, the best-selling pop-science author of How We Decide, tackled the creative process in this rambling and diverse narrative. That Lehrer dabbled in some creative maneuvers in this volume by fabricating Bob Dylan quotes made reading this volume even more enticing. It must satisfy something on the creative writing side, the side that as some writers like to say, tells lies for a living.

Despite the self-plagiarism that derailed Lehrer's career recently, his work is peppered with nuggets of valid information, if not wisdom. Readers and writers are keenly aware that the unconscious mind experiences fiction as reality, and that scenes portrayed in literature and art do not have to be real to provoke profound insights about life. The confabulated quotes cited in the flurry of articles about Lehrer’s misdeeds are insignificant taken in context to the entire scope of his work. Lehrer accomplished a good bit of legitimate research for Imagine, and he sheds light on the process of creativity in the straightforward, accessible language of “new media” journalism. We need interpreters of science like him. Sadly, there isn’t much hard science in this book, though there is certainly enough to keep a humanities major like myself busy navigating the byways of neuroscience.

Lehrer’s greatest contribution to the study of creativity is his assurance that we are all creative, and that we can all learn to harness our imaginations more efficiently. Whether we experiment with seventy versions of a musical phrase like Beethoven, or produce only a handful of plodding revisions in an academic science paper or a short story, we all share the ability to focus upon and solve creative problems. As Lehrer points out, the extremes of the creative process – the transcendent generation phase coupled with the more attentive revision stage of the creative process - are somewhat like the vacillation between mania and depression in bipolar disorder. We must learn to navigate these changes of mental and emotional direction in order to harness our creative perceptions, surrendering logic and focus to find imaginative prowess.

There are many dimensions to the creative process, and Lehrer aptly previews many different types of creative problems that benefitted from various forms of creative intervention: a jaded musician seeking a new groove (Dylan), researchers seeking new ways to mop floors (Proctor and Gamble), a surfer grooving in the pipeline (Clay Marzo), a production team making a computer animated film (Pixar), and many other situations.

In conclusion, Lehrer points out that “the creative process begins with the brain, that fleshy source of possibility . . . but the brain is only the beginning. . . There was nothing. Now there is something. It’s almost like magic.” In this respect, Lehrer’s study of creativity is somewhat short on science, but certainly long enough on inspiration to make Imagination worth reading. We need science and we need the stuff of psycho-spiritual inquiry. As far as creativity goes, perhaps pondering the process from these two diverse viewpoints may be the wisest course of all. ( )
  KateRobinson | Oct 4, 2014 |
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The goal of “Imagine,” according to its subtitle, is to tell us “how creativity works” — to offer a scientific, mechanistic account of a seemingly ineffable phenomenon. And what distinguishes the scientific from other modes of thinking is not its technology, level of detail or even subject matter, but its ability to discover reliable cause-and-effect relationships. The clarity of physics and chemistry is rare in social science, but this is no license for presenting interesting speculations as settled truths.

The best way to think about “Imagine” is as a collection of interesting stories and studies to ponder and research further. Use it as a source of inspiration, but make your own careful choices about whether to believe what it says about the science of creativity.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 184767786X, Hardcover)

Amazon Best Books of the Month, March 2012: Combining cutting-edge neurological research with the age-old mystery of how and when inspiration strikes, Jonah Lehrer’s Imagine: How Creativity Works is a fun, engaging study of creativity. Lehrer uses case studies like 3M’s and Pixar’s innovative corporate cultures and Bob Dylan’s songwriting habits to frame scientific findings about the brain and where creativity comes from. You won’t find exercises to help you think more creatively or ways to avoid creative blocks in this book. Instead, you’ll learn how and why creativity is stimulated by certain activities—like looking at the color blue, traveling, or daydreaming productively—and how these activities stimulate creativity in everyone, not just in ‘creative’ people. Lehrer’s focus is as wide and fascinating as his topic itself and there’s something to engage every reader, no matter where you rate yourself on the creativity spectrum. --Malissa Kent

Amazon Exclusive: Jad Abumrad Reviews Imagine

Jad Abumrad is host and creator of the public radio hit Radiolab, now in its seventh season and reaching over a million people monthly. Abumrad has won numerous awards, including a National Headliner Award in Radio and an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science Journalism Award. Read his exclusive Amazon guest review of Imagine:

As a storyteller, I'm in awe of Jonah Lehrer.

It's rare that you read a book where every page has at least one "Aha!" moment, one moment per page that grabs your perspective and gives it a good shake. In other words, while reading this book, I kept experiencing the very phenomenon Jonah is investigating--the sensation of insight. That pleasant brain fever that overtakes you when you suddenly, in a flash, see the world in a new way.

This book is the single best attempt I've ever read (and I've read many) to demystify human creativity. To puncture the age-old mysteries: how do insights happen? How can I make them happen more?

The beauty here is in what Jonah chooses to notice. Bob Dylan, W.H. Auden, the inventor of the Post-It Note, an autistic surf champion . . . they all become gorgeously rendered wormholes into the inner wonders of the human mind. And because of his background in neuroscience, when Jonah does the brain, he delivers the goods.

And finally: though this isn't a self-help book (thank God for that), at the end of it, you're left with a set of ideas and practices that you can actually use.

I do believe this book will set a new standard for science journalism. I for one will be handing it out as a Christmas presents for years to come.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:33 -0400)

"New York Times"-bestselling author Lehrer ("How We Decide") introduces readers to musicians, graphic artists, poets, and bartenders to show how they can use science to be more imaginative and make their cities, their companies, and their culture more creative.… (more)

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