Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind

I just finished a great little book from John Cleese called Creativity: A short and cheerful guide.

In it, he talked about a book and idea from Guy Claxton, called "Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind" (Which now is on my reading list).

The idea is that the "Hare Brain" involves 'figuring matters out, weighing up the pros and cons, constructing arguments and solving problems.' This is the classic problem-solving way of thinking relying on reason, logic and deliberate conscious thinking.

The most interesting part however, was the idea of the Tortoise Mind, and of its importance on creative work. The Tortoise Mind 'proceeds more slowly … It is often less purposeful and clear cut, more playful, leisurely or dreamy. In this mode we are ruminating or mulling things over, being contemplative or meditative. We may be pondering a problem, rather than earnestly trying to solve it'.

The crucial point being made is that this leisurely Tortoise Mind, for all its apparent aimlessness, is just as intelligent as the much faster 'Hare Brain'.

'When we are not sure what needs to be taken into account, or even which questions to pose – or when the issue is too subtle to be captured by the familiar categories of conscious thought … we need recourse to the tortoise mind.'

This also connects well together with something else I found very interesting, written by Billy Oppenheimer, regarding what the brain is doing when you are doing absolutely nothing.

The neuroscientist Dr. Nancy Andreasen did a study of brain activity when the brain is in a "resting state"—free of inputs/free to wander:
During REST, the brain "uses its most human & complex parts."
"We found activations in multiple regions of the association cortex," Dr. Andreasen wrote. "We were not [seeing] a passive silent brain during the ‘resting state,’ but rather a brain that was actively connecting thoughts and experiences.”

Dr. Andreasen writes about the study in her book, The Creating Brain: The Neuroscience of Genius