The Eureka Factor: Aha Moments, Creative Inisght, and the Brain

This item is no longer valid on Amazon.
Image of The Eureka Factor: Aha Moments, Creative Insight, and the Brain
Release Date: 
April 14, 2015
Random House
Reviewed by: 

The Eureka Factor is a plunge into the neuroscience of insight. Where do brainwaves come from? And how can we have more of them?

A challengingly jargon-packed read, The Eureka Factor is also a manifesto about why we need to develop our natural gift for insight both in our personal lives and in the wider society.

Compared to the virtues of having good hard analytical skills, insight and creativity are the Cinderellas of the business world. Taught as a soft skill, creativity training is the educational equivalent of a nice warm pair of fluffy slippers. It’s something to do if you need an easy class for extra credit.

The work of Kounios and Beeman will hopefully change that as they uncover the hard science behind what are seen as soft concepts. Leading cognitive neuroscientists, they point out that a healthy ability for insight is essential to invention and that invention is essential to our long-term economic health.

We need invention. We need insight.

For anyone teaching or encouraging creativity, The Eureka Factor is a fully functional guidebook.

By mapping the part of the brain where insight ignition takes place, Kounios and Beeman have developed scientific tests that not only measure insight as it occurs, but also help to identify the stimuli that either inspire or inhibit it.

The book is the first-hand account of that research. It’s fact driven and science first. Anything that hasn’t be quantified by rigorous science has been rigorously left out, and the discoveries that make the scientific grade will pleasantly surprise.

The researchers show that much of what is seen as creativity folklore actually has foundations in rock-hard fact. There are firm reasons why we get our best ideas in the shower. There are firm reasons why an upbeat outlook inspires creativity. There are firm reasons why leaning back and shutting your eyes or even simply gazing at the ceiling can help with problem solving.

The Eureka Factor delivers practical tips to develop your sense of insight and recognize the situations where insight is more effective than analysis.

It’s also packed with so much scientific jargon that the casual reader is likely to be completely put off. For example, “Functional magnetic resonance imaging showed a corresponding increase in blood flow in a part of the brain’s right temporal lobe called the ‘anterior superior temporal gyrus.’”

Apparently it affects a person’s ability to understand a joke! Chickens and why they crossed the road will never feel quite the same again.

This uber-scientific focus is what gives the book its faultless credibility but also its mind-numbing dryness. Julia Cameron this ain’t, and anyone seeking The Artist’s Way should look elsewhere.

The authors seem to have aimed for a middle ground between hard science and easy reading. They failed. Eureka is not an easy read. The tone tilts to the scientific, and the occasional jokes are such that only someone with a scientifically tuned anterior superior temporal gyrus could ever find amusing.

But The Eureka Factor rewards persistence. The fact that you have to work to understand it means that its ideas become firmly anchored in your mind. And they’re ideas that are well worth anchoring.

Its a wonderful contradiction that a manifesto for insight should take such a ruthlessly analytical route to its goal, but only by taking such an analytical approach could the authors so convincingly persuade an analytical world of the need for greater insight.