The Psychology of Inventing: Overcoming Obstacles and Finding Inspiration

Creating ideas is an extremely powerful way to change the world. As a result, it is crucial to understand the brain-level mechanisms that drive individuals to act on their creative ideas.

Despite the potential power of inspiration to effect social change, however, a number of obstacles prevent people from taking their ideas and turning them into reality. One of the most important is the fear of failure and rejection that keeps many entrepreneurs from trying their best.

These fears can be the result of a deep-seated homeostatic impulse to preserve familiar patterns of behavior and activity. This impulse is rooted in the need to maintain a sense of safety, and may also be influenced by a lack of recognition for creative efforts.

This fear of failure and rejection can be overcome by using self-talk to reframe the fear into positive statements that are focused on the possibility of success and success alone. This approach is called "creativity therapy" and is used by many professionals who work with clients to help them achieve their creative potential.

There are a variety of ways to explore inspiration and creativity at the brain level, including eliciting inspiration repeatedly in the lab (Thrash et al., 2010b), capturing varying levels of inspiration during highly repetitive activities, and recording electrical brain activity. While these methods are not perfect, they can provide a more systematic approach to exploring the neural underpinnings of inspiration.

The Psychology of Inventing: Overcoming Obstacles and Finding Inspiration

While the study of inspiration is still relatively new, it has already developed a strong foundation on which to build an understanding of the neurobiology behind this critical predictor of creative output. The motivational component of inspiration has been extensively studied and can be measured with a validated measure, such as the 4-item intensity subscale of the IS (Thrash and Elliot, 2004).

In addition to the motivational element, it is important to examine how inspiration occurs at the level of the brain. This will allow researchers to uncover underlying brain-level mechanisms that explain the experience of inspiration, which can then be integrated with explanations at other levels of analysis to produce a richer and more holistic understanding.

The neuroscience of inspiration is a complex and multifaceted issue that has yet to be explored comprehensively. In order to address this issue, it is essential to develop a robust definition of inspiration, an accurate operationalization of this construct, and an efficient measure for testing inspiration in the laboratory.

While a comprehensive understanding of the neurological basis of inspiration will not resolve all of the underlying causes of creative innovation, it will provide an important foundation on which to build future research. Moreover, this knowledge will allow people to better understand why and how they feel inspired to act on their creative ideas. It will also allow people to more effectively apply their knowledge and skills in order to make their ideas come to life.

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