Creativity, thinking and dissatisfaction

OK… I found this summary on http://whywereason.com/tag/malcolm-gladwell/ – it’s way better than any a summary I could produce.

Our ignorance of our wants and desires is well-established in psychology. Several years ago Timothy Wilson conducted one of the first studies to illustrated this. He asked female college students to pick their favorite posters from five options: a van Gogh, a Monet and three humorous cat posters. He divided them into two groups: The first (non-thinkers) was instructed to rate each poster on a scale from 1 to 9. The second (analyzers) answered questionnaires asking them to explain why they liked or disliked each of them. Finally, Wilson gave each subject her favorite poster to take home.

Wilson discovered that the preferences of the two groups were quite different. About 95 percent of the non-thinkers went with van Gogh or Monet. On the other hand, the analyzers went with the humorous cat poster about 50 percent of the time. The surprising results of the experiment showed themselves a few weeks later. In a series of follow-up interviews, Wilson found that the non-thinkers were much more satisfied with their posters. What explains this? One author says that, “the women who listened to their emotions ended up making much better decisions than the women who relied on their reasoning powers. The more people thought about which posters they wanted, the more misleading their thoughts became. Self-analysis resulted in less self-awareness.”

I got to thinking about this recently, because it came up on an NPR radio program. There’s a key thing here is that gut instinct decisions make the chooser happier, which are also sophisticated choices. Or conversely over analytical choices don’t make the chooser happy, and are often dumber choices.

I over analysed comedy to death when I was a stand up. With time it stopped making me happy, and nothing I wrote or did seemed good enough.

Impro kept me happier for longer. I tried to over analyse it, but it’s improvised. There is only so much cold logical decision making you can do in the spur of the moment.

It’s a not a huge leap to say that maybe the analysis was what killed comedy for me. I’m sure many would say “duh – of course”. It’s maybe a surprise for me though. I know I was too into the why’s and what’s, but I liked that. It was boring for others, but I loved thinking about the material in a more logic way. The surprise for me is how tangibly that over thinking can be tied to disliking the end material.

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