Stimulate the E-Spot

Subconscious Logical Reasoning surfaces as Creative Inspiration at the E-Spot …

Some years ago scientists at Northwestern University, Chicago discovered the E-Spot – the precise location in the brain where the ‘Eureka!’ moment takes place. Where a flash of inspiration resolves a problem which logical, contemplative thinking could not. Where the Big Idea is conceived in an instant, known by many as the ‘Aha’ moment. The E-Spot is to be found in the right temporal lobe of the brain, its formal anatomical term being the anterior superior temporal gyrus. I for one prefer the term E-Spot.

The original behavioural study invited groups of volunteers to solve a number of verbal puzzles and say whether they thought they’d arrived at the solutions by insight or by more considered reasoning. A mite subjective perhaps. But the participants’ brain activity was scanned as they responded and functional magnetic resonance imaging revealed increased activity in the E-Spot location when insight, rather than reasoning, provided the correct solution. A sudden burst of highfrequency neural activity was recorded at the E-Spot just moments before a flash of inspiration resolved the problem at hand.

So the study identified the part of the brain responsible for the uniquely human quality of insight. But more interestingly for those in the business of brand communications is that later development work suggested problems (or opportunities) are being thought about in a  reasoned, contemplative manner at an unconscious level for some time prior to solving them with what we might call a flash of inspiration – ‘an idea out of thin air’. The E-Spot is thought to play a crucial part in gathering together disparate information and then be subconsciously activated to produce an abrupt insight when the pieces of the puzzle fall into place.

How often have you woken up in the middle of the night, or at daybreak, with the solution to a problem you have been wrestling with for some time? You didn’t have the answer – or the problem in mind – when you went to sleep. And yet you have the answer now. How? By wrestling with the issue in your unconscious mind for it to surprise you with the solution on waking – or perhaps it even woke you up to tell you?

Legend has it that Archimedes famously shouted ‘Eureka!’ (I have found it!) when he discovered how to calculate density by watching his bathwater displace as he sat in the tub. He had been logically wrestling with the concept of measuring density for an age and had reached an impasse until the solution arose in his consciousness as it did in his bathtub. Typically, an emotional response follows a moment of insight. Surprised and excited by his discovery Archimedes also ran home from the baths stark naked, forgetting his robe – presumably also surprising some of his neighbours!

So what real relevance does any of this have to the business of brand communications? Well, it demystifies the creative process to a degree. And dispels any thought that creatives need rely upon little more their own ‘off the wall’ thinking or divine inspiration to produce the Big Idea which will deliver success for the brand. Anyone believing that is kidding themselves. Since receiving the brief the creative team would have been thinking in a reasoned, logical, contemplative way about the issue, revisiting and reinterpreting it, but because this would have been taking place in their unconscious they wouldn’t have even known it was happening. Until, hopefully, the mould-breaking solution would have presented itself in what the creative would call a flash of inspiration.

From a brand owner client viewpoint, the conclusion is that you should always provide as comprehensive a brief as possible to your creative partner, accompanied by as much support data that you can lay your hands on. You can’t give them too much information providing it is relevant and concise – contrary to popular belief it will not stifle their creativity. The more knowledge they have of your brand, its marketplace and your aims and objectives, the better chance your creative partner has of delivering more effective, brandbuilding solutions.

One final thought – if your creative partner tells you they get all their best ideas in the shower, it might raise a chuckle. Just remember Archimedes jumping out of the tub…

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