13 - Optional Interview with Dr. Robert Bilderدوره: Coursera – Learning How to Learn / درس 13
13 - Optional Interview with Dr. Robert Bilder
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Dr. Robert Bilder directs the consortium
Neuropsychiatric Phenomics, which is a
more than 50 investigators most centered
the University of California in Los
This consortium aims to understand
phenotypes on a genome wide scale.
Through a combination of human research,
basic research, and informatic strategies.
Basically, Dr. Bilder is digging to create
a fundamentally new understanding of how
to look at personality disorders and
diseases that have an effect on
In this regard, Dr. Bilder also directs
and co-directs a slew of other important
But of the most interest to us, Dr. Bilder
is the Director of the Tennenbaum Center
for the Biology of Creativity
one of the most
in the country involved in the study of
So with that, it’s a pleasure to speak
here with Dr Robert Bilder.
Thank you so much for joining us here
today Dr Bilder.
You’re one of the world’s foremost experts
So I have a question for you, sometimes my
students will tell me.
Now, wait a minute.
Other people have solved this problem
So, if I think about it and figure out how
to solve this problem, I’m actually
not being creative while I’m solving this
because other people have already solved
What are your thoughts on that situation?
Well, I think until you’ve solved
the problem yourself you haven’t exercised
and made the unique connections in your
brain, that are needed to solve that
So, we could distinguish between those
that are created for the world, which
that may not be creative with respect to
everything else that’s been done before.
But if we think about what’s been done
that’s unique for you, something new
for you and that has value to you, then
that satisfies a criteria for creativity.
And it’s important for your, your brain to
do that in order to pursue other creative
Well, I couldn’t agree more.
So I, I’m glad you made that point.
When you’re trying to learn something new,
speak publicly, sometimes you, like
everyone, is criticized for it.
What advice do you have for handling this
kind of criticism?
You know, someone told me something
I’m surprised I only heard a few weeks
And they said leadership is the ability to
And I think that if I had to think of all
of the occasions i’ve had when i’ve
had great concerns about what was going
on, or about handling criticisms, and
I think that it may only be through
experience that one learns how to cope
with that a little bit better.
Always difficult but I think the only
advice I can give to others is to always
same kind of curiosity about your own
your own difficulty getting the big
and understanding the entire scope of the
problem that you would apply to others and
to, to any problem in general.
I like that too, sort of be,
be willing to accept discomfort sometimes
because that’s necessary.
You know, some people would say that it’s
only when you
experience some discomfort that you’re
actually accomplishing some kind of
So, to the extent that one wants to make
progress, it’s necessarily going to
involve some degree of discomfort.
That’s the nature of change.
Physical change in the brain has to
work and that work has to involve some,
But I couldn’t agree more.
I’m reminded, my old swimming coach
used to say no pain, no gain.
And that may also be true of the brain.
Sometimes those old proverbs are really
You know, that’s why they’re proverbs.
You have some very interesting
insights regarding creativity and being
Could you give our viewers just a little
bit of insight about that.
Sure, sure so it’s interesting that
we have studied personality it turns out
are various models of personality, or
temperament or character.
But they pretty much all boil down to five
factors, and these have been very reliably
seen over time.
And the way that I find easiest to
remember those five factors is
to use the acronym OCEAN, which stands for
agreeableness, and neuroticisim.
And now that we’ve looked at that
personality characteristics of people and
then tried to relate their personality
characteristics to their degree of
We find that there are two correlations
here one of them’s not surprising at all.
Openness to a new experience is associated
with great achievement.
But then we find something that’s perhaps
not quite as intuitive,
there is a correlation also with
agreeableness but that correlation is
So it means that people who are less
or more disagreeable tend to show higher
And I think that we might consider this to
be a facet of nonconformism.
Those who tend to challenge the status
quo, challenge models,
and don’t believe things just because
other people have said them.
I think that these are our folks who are
more likely to be creative achievers.
I think so, too.
That’s, that’s a very interesting and it’s
a counter-intuitive finding.
Usually people think agreeableness is, you
know, a nice, positive trait.
And, indeed, agreeableness is a nice,
yet, there are occasions when
Can push the envelope, help us to
challenge prior conventions and make
the kinds of pushes forward you know, that
are outside the box.
I think sometimes it’s just, it’s hard
walk that fine line between being being a,
Because things make sense.
And then sometimes stepping back and being
willing to be disagreeable because it
make sense to you, and then sometimes you
find out, actually, it does make sense.
But sometimes, you’re right to be
So finding that fine line of where to
agree and where to disagree, and being
willing to disagree if you think that
something is not quite right,.
I think that’s an important important line
Yeah, it’s, it’s difficult to know how
to balance the correct approach.
And indeed, I think that’s one of the
creativity, just by following from the
root definitions of, of creativity.
Which typically emphasize on the one hand
product is, to be considered creative has
to be new.
But then it also has to be useful or
valued by someone.
So, this involves a kind of attention
something that may be totally driven by
vision of things, and those things that
to end up being adopted or used by others.
So it means that you can create things
that may be novel, wonderful, and strange.
But if they’re too novel, too strange,
they’re not going to be considered
wonderful by others.
So finding this sweet spot in the range
you find to be the newest and most
valuable and exciting.
And what others believe is I think that’s
a life long process of, of deliberation
That’s so true.
I, I think writers in particular, writers
and inventors are both,
they have to face what other people’s
opinions of their work are.
And sometimes it’s just surprising what
they’ll come back
with, something that you thought was
perfect, a real gem.
People will come back and, and give you
allow you to understand that maybe your
perceptions weren’t quite right.
That’s right, yeah.
I’ve gotten that feedback you know quite
and [LAUGH] may be a little defensive at
And then, you know try to warm up to it,
try to understand well, what, what do they
have in mind.
Any particular tips on how you learn
Well, I think people vary a lot in
the degree to which they are dominated by
words or images.
You know some verbal versus visual
And so I find that I do best if I can go
between the two.
Because I love words and language.
I was actually once accused by my students
being a sesquipedalian and got a little
plaque from them.
I didn’t know what sesquipedalian meant
until I got the plaque.
And then anybody who watches this can then
look it up.
Anyhow I love words, and so there’s a
nuance there that I really like.
But at the same time I feel like I don’t
have a complete understanding unless i’ve
somehow mapped it, graphed it.
Or visualized it.
And so I like to go back and forth between
those two kinds of approaches.
The other thing that I really like to do,
and sometimes we’ve recommended this in
exercises to enhance creativity.
Is to do a powers of ten exercise.
And for those who haven’t seen it, there’s
a great video.
You can easily get it online.
Well you just look up powers of ten video
I think that will do the job.
It basically starts with an imagine of a
man sitting or lying in a hammock.
And then the camera zooms ten feet above,
then 100 feet
above, then 1,000 feet above, it goes by
powers of ten.
Ultimately you’re exploring the cosmos in
And then it zooms back down into the man.
Then it goes powers of ten inside the
Goes into the cell, goes down and reveals
the molecules, and then finally, and
mind blowing, is how far you have to
go when you start getting into subatomic
Where you’re really surrounded by
More vast than the universe itself.
So I think that getting that kind of
exercise, getting that perspective.
Trying to figure out what’s the higher
altitude view, stepping back
from a problem and thinking about well,
why am I doing this?
What’s the bigger picture?
But then also drilling into individual
facets and details,
by zooming in and zooming out from a
I usually find I get a much better idea
of the problem scope and different
perspective on that problem.
That is very worth while.
I’ve never really thought of problem
solving in that perspective.
I think that’s maybe a little bit what you
A bit subconsciousness or is it just
naturally when you get away from the
I mean, do you get new perspective when
you’re just going out for a walk.
Or something like that?
But that’s an interesting perspective.
Zooming in and zooming out.
I think the brain probably does
some of this spontaneously and
particularly during sleep.
Because if you think about what happens
You’ve got a washing away of all of
the conscious, top down, cognitive control
over your thoughts.
And it probably permits different neural
to assemble themselves in ways that may
make sense spontaneously, but are free
the guided process of our top down mind.
And so I think that’s one of the reason
why people will awake
from sleep, dreams, or other relaxed
states, when they’re not thinking about
And all the sudden have come up with a
All components were there that required a
release at least temporarily of the
constraints, that would be applied to the
problem to recognize a new solution.
That may be how August Kekule recognized
the benzene ring,
from seeing that snake biting it’s tail.
Yeah I think it’s sometimes, I like to
it as an octopus of attention, and turns
off during sleep.
And so the tentacles of the octopus can
randomly go about
and that’s what helps create some of the
innovative new ideas.
Well, that’s interesting.
You were, I think you were reading my mind
because when I
was thinking of August Kekule, who dreamt
about a snake biting his tail,
I was also thinking of well, what if
instead of a snake biting
it’s tail, he imagined a spider, or it
could have been an octopus.
But, then we’d have a completely different
structure of organic chemistry before us.
We would never have discovered the benzene
Well that’s what they say, insights
that rise from
the subconscious like that, they are, they
can sometimes be invaluable.
But you always gotta check ‘em because
they may seem right, but they’re not
That’s right, yeah.
And there, you know, I’m mindful of
speaking of spiders,
the fantastic experiments that were done
in the early investigation
of LSD, the hallucinogen, where different
drugs were given to
spiders and see what impact it had on
their webmaking skills.
And while many people felt that they
became incredibly creative while under
the influence of LSD, and while many
people felt they had great
insights while they’re under the influence
of LSD, the spiders it turns
out, made really lousy webs when they were
under the influence of LSD.
And I think a lot of people who had been
what they were thinking about at the time
that they were doing
LSD, found later, when they were no longer
under the influence, that
the products that they had created were
not exactly what they had hoped.
(See also “LSD: My Problem Child” in reading list)
That’s, that’s, I think that’s true,
interesting perspectives from history of
different people’s insights
whilst under drugs and not under drugs,
sometimes I think it’s, it’s actually
But other times, it’s surprisingly
So so there’s definitely a mixture there.
This is, this is true.
I was just reviewing with a class
of visual representations of dualities or
balances between opposing forces.
So we were talking about the yin yang
symbol, the Tibetan eternal knot.
But one of the symbols that’s one of my,
one of my favorites probably because I
the least, is the intersecting gyres or
that were described by Yeats and his wife
And those, those images were probably
while they were under the influence of
I will definitely have to go look those
So, Doctor Bilder, I, I, I
so appreciate your, your an abecedarian
So I greatly appreciate your
insights here, and on behalf of all the
students of learning how to learn.
I, I thank you.
Thank you, Barb.
It’s always great talking to you.
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