Quick, look at the letters below and unscramble them to form a word:
Now -- how did you do it? Did you systematically try out different letter patterns, or did you have an "aha" moment when the answer suddenly became clear to you? If it was the former, you used a different part of your brain than if you grasped the word whole. Psychologists say that the second group tends to be more creative.
I have been reading about various personality types in Helen Fisher's WHY HIM? WHY HER? Among other things, the book brings together various research on thought patterns, neurotransmitters, and temperament. Creativity and the easy generation of ideas are linked to specific dopamine pathways, especially of the DRD2 gene.
Heightened creativity is also linked to mood disorders. A study of successful British painters, poets, playwrights, and sculptors found that 30% had received treatment of some sort for mood disorders, compared to 5% of the general population. Poets were the most unstable, which explains a lot about Keats, Byron, and Eliot. Most of the general population, in contrast, was not measuring its lives in coffee spoons.
This book has many more fascinating insights into personality research. It's also -- unlike many books on psychology -- highly readable. Recommended.
And, oh -- the scrambled word above, in case you never got it, is "EXAMPLE."