Silence and the “A-ha!” moment

Q: Your video on the “A-ha!” moment is so obviously true and is certainly within my experience. You mentioned research that supports the proposition that silence is necessary in order for unconscious processing to do its work. Are you able to point me in the direction of this research?

A: As I’ve written in my book The Brain and Emotional Intelligence, new research has given us a fresh window on how to foster creative insights. It’s not exactly silence that fosters the unconscious processing involved in creativity, but rather sustained focus – and that sometimes takes silence. Noise can distract, for sure (but it depends:  I remember learning how to concentrate on getting an article done on deadline when I worked in a busy newsroom at the New York Times).  The best research on this is by Teresa Amabile, who asked thousands of “knowledge workers”— whose jobs require they come up with innovative insights – to keep a daily diary recording their best moments and the conditions that helped or hindered their creative output.  I’ve blogged about her work here.