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CRAFTGET OUT YOUR ZAFU It’s official: meditation can benefit your creativity. Wei-Lun Lin and Yi-Ling Shih of Guang University, Taiwan found thatproviding biofeedback via an electroencephalogram in order to teach people to increase the alpha rhythms in their brain dramatically enhanced creativity in a subsequent task. Alpha rhythms are also associatedmay be undermined. Markus Kemmelmeier of the University of Nevada and Andre Walton of the University of South Wales found women were more creative in a writing task than men – especially when they believed their success would benefit others – but this advantage was undermined when they felt under threat – i.e. when told any failing would jeopardise a larger project. (‘Creativity in men and women: threat, other-interest, and self-assessment’, CRJ, 2016)TESTOSTERONE FACELooked in the mirror recently? Of course you have. But did it occur to you to calculate your facial width-to-height ratio(f WHR), a figure known to be a reliable indicator of testosterone level and dominance – the wider the face, the higher the testosterone. Who knew? Izabela Lebuda and Maciej Karwowski of the Maria Grzegorzewska University in Poland usedthis measure to see whether testosterone was a factor in eminent writers’ achievements – specifically in the Nobel Prize stakes. Measuring photos of 247 nominees and 39 actual winners, they found those withhigher f WHRs were nominated at a younger age, gained more nominations overall as aresult, so were more likely to win a prize eventually. Pushyor talented? (‘Written on the writer’s face: facial width-to- height ratio among nominees and laureates of the Nobel Prize in Literature’, CRJ, 2016)PLAY AND CREATIVITYDoes playing make-believein childhood lead to greater creativity in later life? You’d think so, wouldn’t you? Buta controversial paper by Angeline Lillard and colleagues of the University of Virginia, examining all of the research on the subject to date, casts doubt on this assumption – whichwill be a relief to parents not that keen on crawling aroundon the carpet pretending tobe a crocodile. Lillard claimsthat imaginative play is an epiphenomenon of cognitive development, rather than a driver of it; i.e. bright kids play make-believe because they are already firing on all cylinders. (‘The impact of pretend play on children’s development: a review of the evidence’, Psychological Bulletin, 2013)mslexia EXERCISESPoetry competitionBased on the assumption that good poems start from specific information rather than abstract emotion, try this exercise.► Think of a clichéd poetic concept – blazing sunset, beautiful landscape, sleeping child, stormy sea, lover’s kiss.► Now research the factual basis of the concept. What’s the scientific explanation for a sunset’s colours? The evolutionary basis of a kiss? The brain patterns of sleep?► Having used the scientific explanation to gain a distance from the cliché, consider what metaphors it suggests, and/ or employ the vocabulary in a poem.MARGARET WILKINSONCoffee breakDraw a map or ground plan ofa place that’s familiar to you: the house you grew up in, your grandmother’s garden, a school playground, the inside of your own wardrobe. Now annotate it, adding an association for each feature: ‘the mat I was sick on’; ‘the expensive dress I never wore’; ‘the mirror my mother was looking in when she had a stroke’; ‘the muddy end of the hockey field where I fell over’. Be as specific as you can. When you’ve finished, group any that seem to go together. Can you see any themes emerging? Choose a theme, a person, or an association and write from there.ELLEN SCOTTWHAT'S NEWCREATIVITYwith zen meditation. The type of creativity facilitated was ‘open-ended’ – as opposed to the ‘closed-ended’ problem- solving task in the experiment. (‘Designing EEG neurofeedback procedures to enhance open- ended versus closed-ended creative potentials, Creativity Research Journal, 2016)THREATS TO SUCCESSRecent reviews of the evidence confirm there is little difference between men and women in creativity – if anything, women are more creative. Where genders do differ is in terms of actual achievement. Which is why mslexia – and indeed mslexia – exists. New research reported in the CRJ sheds light on oneway our creative achievementIT WORKS FOR MEELIF SHAFAKHaving grown up amidst the noise of Istanbul, I find it hard to write in silence.So I play really loud ‘industrial metal’ music from Scandinavia through my earphones. For each of my books I have a playlist of three or four songs, and play them one at a time on a loop over and over. The repetition helps me concentrate. I am listening to the Finnish bands Nightwish and Apocalyptica at the moment. ■ELIF SHAFAK is a political scientist, advocate for women’s and LGBT rights, and author of ten novels, including The Forty Rules of Love and The Bastard of Istanbul. Her most recent book is Three Daughters of Eve (Viking).mslexia Mar/Apr/May 2017 35IMAGES: ELIF SHAFAK FROM BBC.COM; BABY BY RAMONA HEIM / SHUTTERSTOCK; MEDITATION BY MONKEY BUSINESS / SHUTTERSTOCK

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