What Make Us Creative? Intelligence Helps, but Emotions Matter More, According to Six Experts Who Are Coming to Chicago

Article excerpt

Byline: Tom Valeo Daily Herald Assistant Features Editor

How does the brain produce creativity?

Socrates thought artists were touched by the gods. Freud thought creativity was the product of frustrated sexual urges. Many still think creativity is a byproduct of extreme intelligence.

Brain researchers know all these explanations are off the mark, but they can't explain the mystery, either. Creativity is so complex that those who study it are thrilled to gain one small insight and add one small piece to the puzzle. Linking those pieces into a coherent picture still seems many years away to them.

Yet, Andrea Gellin Shindler hopes to link a few pieces during "Emotional Intelligence, Education, and the Brain," a symposium Dec. 5 in Chicago on the elusive connection between our emotions and creativity.

Daniel Goleman, who covers psychology for The New York Times, introduced the concept of emotional intelligence in his 1995 book by that title. He observes that intelligence accounts for, at best, 20 percent of success in life. The rest seems to depend on the way people handle their own emotions and the emotions of others.

Emotional intelligence, he adds, also enhances creativity.

Shindler, a former speech therapist and the founder of the Foundation for Human Potential, began exploring the concept of creativity to help herself understand a perplexing experience she had with a young woman from Buffalo Grove named Carol Frankel.

In 1973, when Frankel was 20, an artery burst in her brain. The leaking blood virtually destroyed the left hemisphere of her brain, which controls the ability to speak, and the young woman was left mute.

Shindler, then a speech therapist, was assigned to help Frankel recover some speech. During their months together, Frankel took up painting. She had to use her left hand because her right arm was paralyzed, and she had never displayed any artistic talent whatsoever.

Yet, within a few weeks, Frankel was producing paintings that were competent, mysterious and strangely moving.

Then, as she recovered some ability to speak, Frankel's interest in painting all but disappeared.

Shindler didn't know what to make of this. Did Frankel develop her interest in art despite her brain injury ... or because of it?

"I thought that perhaps, when she could no longer communicate through speech, she developed this ability to communicate through paint," Shindler recalled.

Shindler began doing research and came across the case of Nadia, a profoundly autistic child in England who displayed astounding artistic ability at an extremely early age. But after the age of 9, when Nadia developed some ability to speak, she lost interest in drawing.

Shindler considered writing a case study about Carol Frankel, but then she came up with an idea she liked more - she would invite psychologists, neurologists, artists and other experts from around the country to share knowledge at a three-day symposium that was open to the public.

"Art and the Brain," held in 1988 in the Rubloff Auditorium at the Art Institute, proved so popular Shindler decided to organize others.

Her plan was to cover the seven distinct types of intelligence proposed by her friend, psychologist Howard Gardner, in his book, "Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences."

"I figured we could hold a symposium every other year or so and cover all seven," Shindler said.

So, after creating the Foundation for Human Potential to sponsor the symposiums, she organized "Music and the Brain" in 1992, and "Sports, Dance, Movement and the Brain" in 1995.

This year, instead of focusing on another form of intelligence proposed by Gardner, Shindler has organized an all-star team of authors to discuss emotional intelligence - the capacity to recognize the motivations and feelings of others, and respond to those signals in an appropriate and an effective way. …