The Psychology of Ideas

On why ideas don’t belong to anyone, but to the world… and are objective, independent entities.

Ideas are important, and are primarily responsible for creating ‘things’. Ideas are created from concepts and concepts transform our reality. So ideas indirectly transform the reality, the world and the future. We need to dissect how ideas happen and where they really come ideas from. Highly creative people get more ideas, so ideas relate closely with creativity. A creative mind is a good resource for new ideas. The physiology of ideas would be similar to that of creative thoughts but the psychology of ideas and the psychology of creativity would be quite different. That is why, the psychology of ideas, is so interesting, you see.

An idea occurs suddenly, it doesn’t require a trained mind, although some basic knowledge could help give shape to it. It is finally independent of the mind which conceptualized it in the first place. Ideas stand out in their independence. That’s how ideas are different from a creative thought. A creative thought needs you as the creator, whereas an idea is independent and “out there”. As soon as the idea comes to you in a flash, it belongs not to you, but to the world. Whereas the creative thought usually moves inwards to torment or inspire the artist, scientist or the writer, an idea jumps out to move into the world. Ideas and creative thoughts have different or opposite directions. Sounds weird that ideas and thoughts can have directions. This is a very new concept and you won’t find people talking about directions of thoughts and ideas.

Ideas need to be implemented, and call for some sort of action. They also relate to some aim and the ability of the individual to gain through the idea. Thus a productive idea could help in financial gain, emotional gain or social gain. Ideas belong to the world, and are important as they are independent entities. They are externalized concepts and creative thoughts are internalized concepts. Ideas are more objective and do not really belong anywhere and that is why they are always timeless and eternal. Creative thoughts need to belong and they are also more subjective. Creative thoughts can be used to study a person’s mental state and psychoanalysts do that all the time.

Ideas cannot however reveal the depths of the psyche. An idea has its own objective existence. I am getting too philosophical at this point, but coming back to the psychology, why do certain people have certain ideas that may be unique or universal?

An idea is unique when your specific circumstances create the underlying concept, and universal if it is shared by all. We have a universal idea of God or how to launch a business. Yet there may be unique elements in the way we perceive God or try to run our business.We may have both unique and universal ideas.

There are individuals who come up with a novel idea. If this idea creates a significant impact on society, we call this person a genius. Let’s consider Einstein and his theory that mass is equivalent to energy. This is also an insight, but primarily an idea that is ‘out there’ and completely objective. A business plan is also an idea and because a business is an objective plan, it is again ‘out there’ and ready to be implemented in the world.

Traditional psychology has hardly done any study on ideas. Psychologists have not explained what ideas really are. There is a serious need to get participants to articulate and study this concept thoroughly. If we get to know the psychological mechanisms of how ideas develop, we can do a lot of things, we can actually encourage the development of ideas in children and adults and there will be idea apps, idea gyms, idea workouts, idea shakes – the whole¬† – commercialization of ‘idea’. That would mean a brave new world, full of ideas.

Ideas have to be closely related to both intelligence and creativity because these attributes provide the foundation for ideas. We have mental concepts, and when confronted with external or internal stimuli, we may discover or invent something new or simply gain new insight and come up with an idea. Thus concepts when used productively in the presence of external stimuli, could produce new ideas.

Now suppose, you already have concepts of roses, garden and flowers and how they all can come together for a beautiful experience of roses in the garden. Then on your trip to the market, you see the rose plants and you have the idea, that you want roses in your own garden. So concepts, external trigger and your idea. Of course there can be bodily triggers and social situations that can facilitate the creation of an idea. That is why ideas can be so varied with an infinite number of concepts and infinite number of external triggers or situations, ideas can also be infinite.

So, how would you or your child get more ideas and in fact how would you get more productive ideas? What should you drink to get better ideas? If ideas are permutations and combinations of concepts and stimuli, it can be suggested that more experience with stimuli and superior conceptual understanding would lead to better ideas. Superior conceptual skills require higher levels of intelligence and the way we manipulate these concepts in our head to understand the world is a direct measure of our intellectual capabilities. Experience with external or internal stimuli suggest that we need to respond to these stimuli and this requires a level of creativity as we do not respond to stimuli mechanically like robots, but mostly creatively, with conscious understanding.

So creativity in our responses and intelligence for our conceptual understanding are the two important factors in the development or manifestation of ideas. It would be wrong to say that ideas develop in a way creative thoughts develop. This is because ideas happen quickly and suddenly. Possibly the developmental phase of an idea is unconscious and emerges suddenly as a conscious phenomenon. Thus there are four stages – Incubation of the concepts, Development of thoughts following interactions of concepts and stimuli, Emergence of the concept-stimuli quickly through our minds and Adaptation when the conceptual mess finds a meaningful path in the real world (I.D.E.A). Our mind or brain consciously adapts these ideas so that they ‘fit’ into the real world. Your ideas may be outrageous and out of the world, but will still have elements of reality. You may visualize orange or green skies, but despite the outrageousness, the concepts of orange or green and sky are still real and merely adaptive to the idea.



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