Attention and Creativity: The Role of Meditation

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The relationship between attentional processes and the ability to be creative is one of the aspects that try to study the cognitive neurosciences. The ability to be creative involves a number of cognitive processes that depend on several factors. Nowadays we know that the information is stored in the brain in neural networks. Such neural networks are interconnected and are located in different brain areas. Creativity is the ability to find new ideas and relationships between objects. These relationships gives way to new applications: for example, Aristotle finds a new way of measuring the density of a body through the effect of any body that is submerged in water.

Attention and CreativityThe difference between creativity and intelligence has been studied extensively, with results that tend to differentiate these two concepts (Batey & Furnham, 2010). One of the most influential psychologists in the definition of intelligence was Joy Paul Guilford. Guilford distinguishes two main cognitive processes in most creative activities: divergent thinking and convergent thinking.

  • Divergent Thinking is a style of thinking that generates many new ideas, with more than one correct solution. A good example of divergent thinking is a sessions of brainstorming, that aims to generate as many ideas as possible on a specific topic. Divergent Thinking can be measured by specific tests, for example, by the Alternative Uses Test. This test consists on naming as many uses as possible to a simple everyday object, with a time limit of 2 minutes. The test also measures divergent thinking through four subcategories: fluency (how many uses are given), originality (much less frequent use), flexibility (in how many uses aredistributed) and elaboration (detail in the answers).
  • Convergent Thinking is considered as the process of generating a possible solution to a particular problem. The emphasis is on speed and is based on a high precision and logic. Creativity is the ability to discover infrequent associations to solve the problem. Mednick’s Remote Associates Test (RAT), is one of the most used to evaluate convergent thinking: three common stimulus words that appear to be unrelated are presented, and the person has to think of a fourth word that is somehow related to each of the first three words.

Slagter et al. (2007) observed that meditation leads to better performance on a task of divided or distributed attention. In Colzato et al. (2012) it is stated that one of the ways to enhance creativity can be meditation. There are two main kinds of meditative training, of focused attention  and open monitoring.

  • In the Focused Attention Meditation, the person focuses on a particular topic: a thought, an object… Everything else that might tend to attract attention, such as bodily sensations, environmental noise or intrusive thoughts, is actively ignored to redirect the constant attention again in the focus point. Many times this focus point is usually breathing.
  • In the Open Monitoring Meditation, the person is free to perceive and observe any feeling or thought without focusing on a concept in mind, so attention is flexible and unrestricted.

Study results indicate that open monitoring meditation can improve creativity divergent processes because they force the brain to work in a certain way. The study suggests that this practice reduces the degree of top-down regulation.

In conclusion, if you want to be more creative, apart from being less stressed, meditation can help you!


Batey, M., & Furnham, A. (2006). Creativity, Intelligence, and Personality: A Critical Review of the Scattered Literature.Genetic, Social, and General Psychology Monographs132(4), 355-429. doi:10.3200/MONO.132.4.355-430

Colzato, L. S., Ozturk, A., & Hommel, B. (2012). Meditate to Create: The Impact of Focused-Attention and Open-Monitoring Training on Convergent and Divergent Thinking. Frontiers in Psychology3. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00116

Slagter, H. A., Lutz, A., Greischar, L. L., Francis, A. D., Nieuwenhuis, S., Davis, J. M., & Davidson, R. J. (2007). Mental Training Affects Distribution of Limited Brain Resources. PLoS Biol5(6), e138. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0050138

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What Would Google Do?

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Book_Jeff JarvisTitle: What Would Google Do?                         Author: Jeff Jarvis                                                  Publisher: Harper Collins, 2009.

Jeff Jarvis (1954) is an American journalist, creator and founding of Entertainment Weekly and Sunday editor of the New York Daily News. He is associate professor and director of the Tow-Knight Center of Entrepreneurial Journalism at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism, and his blog is one of the Web’s most widely respected blogs.

Nowadays, the market where a business idea grows is no longer in our city or country, but worldwide. What Would Google Do? is not only a book, but an indispensable manual for surviving in the Internet age. Google has become the fastest-growing company in the history, which means that if you want your business succeed, you should think like Google.The author give the cues to do that, applying a set of principles not just to emerging technologies but to other industries like airlines, television, education, healthcare and others.

“Google is not just a company, it is an entirely new way of thinking about understanding who we are and what we want. Jarvis hoas done something really important: extend that approach to business and culture, revealing just how revolutionary it is ”  Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail.

Processing Speed

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Processing speed is one of the major factor in general cognition and a fundamental part of the cognitive system (Kail & Salthouse, 1994).

Slow cognitive processing is linked to academic achievement and several clinical disorders. Vulnerability to information processing load is related to attentional problems. Inattentive children perform poorly on measures of information processing speed (Weiler, Bernstein, Bellinger, & Waber, 2000). Some authors talk about the possibility that inattentive subtype of ADHD (ADD), could be a different group from general ADHD characterized by poor cognitive interference control and slow processing (Goth-Owens, Martinez-Torteya, Martel, & Nigg, 2010). Likewise, attention and speed weaknesses coexist in children with Autism and ADHD, an contribute significantly to the Processing Speed_ADHD_Dyslexiaprediction of academic achievement (Mayes & Calhoun, 2007). Deficits in processing speed are a cognitive risk factor for reading disabilities and ADHD (Shanahan et al., 2006). Children with dyslexia, compared with normal performance children, have persistent problems in naming speed for all stimuli regardless the stimulus requires grapheme-phoneme decoding. In the study of Fawcet (Fawcett & Nicolson1994), performance speed of children with dyslexia at the age of seventeen was close to those with eight years old at control group.

Naming speed can also be modified by medication. Children with ADHD taking methylphenidate selectively, can improve color naming speed but not the speed of naming letters or digits. These findings implicate that naming speed deficits are associated with effortful semantic processing in ADHD, and can be improved but not normalized by methylphenidate (Tannock, Martinussen, & Frijters, 2000).

The relationship between learning disabilities and intelligence is not clear. Children with low IQ scores can be good readers. Poor readers at variety of IQ levels show similar reading, spelling, language and memory deficits (Siegel, 1989).

Another important field is the study of neural correlates of processing speed. Children with developmental dyslexia show deficient phonological processing. When we study the functional networks with rapid auditory processing (RAP), we found functional alteration in left hemisphere frontal regions in prereading children at risk for dyslexia (Raschle, Stering, Meissner, & Gaab, 2013).

Finally, studies show a relation between speed processing, rapid naming and phonological awareness, and all three are related to reading achievement. Poor readers are more slow than good readers across response time measures on the rapid object naming task. Catts et al. 2002, suggest that some poor readers have a general deficit in speed processing, and that speed processing may be conceptualized as an “extraphonological” factor. Naming speed explains variance in reading skills independently of measures of phonological awareness (Bowers & Swanson, 1991).

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Bowers, P. G., & Swanson, L. B. (1991). Naming speed deficits in reading disability: Multiple measures of a singular process. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 51(2), 195-219. doi:10.1016/0022-0965(91)90032-N

Catts, H. W., Gillispie, M., Leonard, L. B., Kail, R. V., & Miller, C. A. (2002). The Role of Speed of Processing, Rapid Naming, and Phonological Awareness in Reading Achievement. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 35(6), 510-525. doi:10.1177/00222194020350060301

Fawcett, A. J., & Nicolson, R. I. (1994). Naming Speed in Children with Dyslexia. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 27(10), 641-646. doi:10.1177/002221949402701004

Goth-Owens, T. L., Martinez-Torteya, C., Martel, M. M., & Nigg, J. T. (2010). Processing Speed Weakness in Children and Adolescents with Non-Hyperactive but Inattentive ADHD (ADD). Child Neuropsychology, 16(6), 577-591. doi:10.1080/09297049.2010.485126

Kail, R., & Salthouse, T. A. (1994). Processing speed as a mental capacity. Acta Psychologica, 86(2–3), 199-225. doi:10.1016/0001-6918(94)90003-5

Mayes, S. D., & Calhoun, S. L. (2007). Learning, Attention, Writing, and Processing Speed in Typical Children and Children with ADHD, Autism, Anxiety, Depression, and Oppositional-Defiant Disorder. Child Neuropsychology, 13(6), 469-493. doi:10.1080/09297040601112773

Raschle, N. M., Stering, P. L., Meissner, S. N., & Gaab, N. (2013). Altered Neuronal Response During Rapid Auditory Processing and Its Relation to Phonological Processing in Prereading Children at Familial Risk for Dyslexia. Cerebral Cortex, bht104. doi:10.1093/cercor/bht104

Shanahan, M. A., Pennington, B. F., Yerys, B. E., Scott, A., Boada, R., Willcutt, E. G., … DeFries, J. C. (2006). Processing Speed Deficits in Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Reading Disability. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 34(5), 584-601. doi:10.1007/s10802-006-9037-8

Siegel, L. S. (1989). IQ Is Irrelevant to the Definition of Learning Disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 22(8), 469-478. doi:10.1177/002221948902200803

Tannock, R., Martinussen, R., & Frijters, J. (2000). Naming Speed Performance and Stimulant Effects Indicate Effortful, Semantic Processing Deficits in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 28(3), 237-252. doi:10.1023/A:1005192220001

Weiler, M. D., Bernstein, J. H., Bellinger, D. C., & Waber, D. P. (2000). Processing Speed in Children With Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Inattentive Type. Child Neuropsychology, 6(3), 218-234. doi:10.1076/chin.