Surprisingly (or not so surprisingly) the internet is not the fount of all knowledge. Sometimes if you really want to find out the truth about something, you have to read a book. Fortunately for me, I love to read. Unfortunately for me, the book I’ve recently been reading, Imagine by Jonah Lehrer (read this as a disclaimer about Mr. Lehrer’s less than ethical writing practices and the controversy about this particular book) is not as factual as most non-fiction books are required to be.

If we can trust that other than fabricating some Bob Dylan quotes, Jonah Lehrer’s book (which has been pulled from the market by the publisher) is generally factual, he has provided some substantial evidence to prove that not only is “The Shower Principle” (which I previously wrote about, here) a real thing, but it’s actually being studied by real scientists and not just Dr. Spaceman. (It turns out that the anterior superior temporal gyrus is a real part of the brain and not Jack Donaghy nonsense as I hastily suggested. But, it sounds made up, right?).

The reason I couldn’t find anything about “The Shower Principle” on the internet is because it is usually just referred to as insight, inspiration, the “Eureka!” moment, “Aha!” or creativity. This is what the publicly disgraced Jonah Lehrer had to say about these moments of spontaneous inspiration:

Why is a relaxed state of mind so important for creative insights? When our minds are at ease – when those alpha waves [the precursor measured on an EEG up to 8 seconds before the moment of insight] are rippling through the brain – we’re more likely to direct the spotlight of attention inward, toward that stream of remote associations [between seemingly unconnected things, i.e. seeing the big picture instead of just the pieces] emanating from the right hemisphere. In contrast, when we are diligently focused, our attention tends to be directed outward, toward the details of the problems we’re trying to solve. While this pattern of attention is necessary when solving problems analytically, it actually prevents us from detecting the connections that lead to insights. “That’s why so many insights happen during warm showers,” Bhattacharya [one of the aforementioned real scientists – a psychologist at Goldsmiths, University of London] says. “For many people, it’s the most relaxing part of the day.” It’s not until we’re being massaged by warm water, unable to check our email, that we’re finally able to hear the quiet voices in the backs of our heads telling us about the insight. The answers have been there all along – we just weren’t listening.

But, given Mr. Lehrer’s penchant for making up quotes, I wasn’t entirely sure that I could trust this information about “The Shower Principle”. So, I looked into Joydeep Bhattacharya and he is in fact a Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths and he is studying “Eureka/Aha!”. The same scientists; Joydeep Bhattacharya, Mark Beeman, and John Kounios, cited in Imagine, were also cited in these fascinating articles in the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and Scientific American, basically saying the same thing but without the reference to showering.

I suspected after watching “The Shower Principle” Episode of 30 Rock that it was a real thing, as I previously wrote about, but I could not find any evidence. I now have the opportunity to set the record straight, it’s not just true based on my own experience, there’s real science behind it too.

Now Jonah Lehrer has presented me with a new problem. I am a recent convert to non-fiction, having previously read strictly fiction. Lately though, I’ve devoured one non-fiction book after another (Quiet, Escape From Camp 14, Behind the Beautiful Forevers are all excellent, if you’re looking for something good to read.) But, if I can’t trust what I read to be true in a factual book, then I think I’d rather stick to books where I know that nothing I read is true.

Advertisements