I cluod hvae tlod you taht

October 5, 2009 at 9:18 pm Leave a comment

jabberwockA friend, who was a neuroscience major, just shared a NYTimes piece with me. “Look!” she said, “It’s your thesis plus my thesis!”

The article, by Benedict Carey, discusses a new study published in Psychological Science, suggesting that nonsense may be, in fact, a way to jumpstart the brain into finding patterns. The researchers and writer seem to indicate that this is a shocking realization.

As Carey writes, “When […] patterns break down — as when a hiker stumbles across an easy chair sitting deep in the woods, as if dropped from the sky — the brain gropes for something, anything that makes sense. It may retreat to a familiar ritual, like checking equipment. But it may also turn its attention outward, the researchers argue, and notice, say, a pattern in animal tracks that was previously hidden. The urge to find a coherent pattern makes it more likely that the brain will find one.”

Chairs in the woods? Or maybe a lamp-post in the middle of the woods? Or a whiffling jabberwock in a tulgey wood?

Children’s literature could have told them that long long ago. And, hey look at that right there: another reason for literary criticism!

But, to Carey and the researcher’s credit, they don’t miss the opportunity. Carey winkingly acquiesces in his closing line: “Still, the new research supports what many experimental artists, habitual travelers and other novel seekers have always insisted: at least some of the time, disorientation begets creative thinking.”


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Fanciful Mr. Fox Welcome to 2010

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he sailed off through night and day and in and out of weeks and almost over a year to where the wild things are.

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