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The Sciences

Drugs & science & insight

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanJuly 23, 2008 11:06 PM

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I posted before on Why scientists should do drugs (if they choose), via Tyler Cowen, a Jonah Lehrerarticle in The New Yorker:

Many stimulants, like caffeine, Adderall, and Ritalin, are taken to increase focus -- one recent poll found that nearly twenty percent of scientists and researchers regularly took prescription drugs to "enhance concentration" -- but, accordingly to Jung-Beeman and Kounios, drugs may actually make insights less like, by sharpening the spotlight of attention and discouraging mental rambles. Concentration, it seems, comes with the hidden cost of diminished creativity. "There's a good reason Google puts Ping-Pong tables in their headquarters," Kounios said. "I you want to encourage insights, then you've got to also encourage people to relax." Jung-Beeman's latest paper investigates why people who are in a good mood are so much better at solving insight puzzles. (On average, they solve nearly twenty percent more C.R.A. problems.)

In other words, what may make a more efficient engineer may also dampen creativity in a theoretical physicist....

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