Seeing Creative Solutions

Science does not know its debt to imagination.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

In “The Righteous Mind”, Jonathan Haidt uses the analogy of an elephant and its rider to explain moral reasoning. The elephant is our intuitive judgement whether something is moral — we know it automatically when we hear something (e.g., a story about incest). The rider watches where the elephant is moving and rationalizes the judgment afterwards. (You could argue that that’s a badly trained elephant. But anyway.)

I wonder whether something similar isn’t at play in other areas as well. In the sense that we intuitively see something, e.g., a creative solution, or an action to take, and we act on that “imagination” afterwards.

To use a simple example, a sheet of paper was blown out of the window and ended up out of your reach. You see the long umbrella and a roll of scotch tape and immediately begin to combine the two, stab the sheet of paper and get it back this way.

Or to use an even simpler (non-creative) example, you sit in front of your computer and see in front of your inner eye the can of energy drink in the fridge. The rest is a no-brainer.

Not sure, but I wonder how many ideas depend on that imagination — and what happens to the possible solutions we cannot visualize. Or rather, that we cannot possibly access with our senses (you can imagine sound, touch, taste, smell, etc. after all).

Just a thought.