By guest blogger, on 15 May 2013
A workshop encouraging doodling and making a mess? And it’s linked to self-identity? Over 90 minutes, Belinda Stojanovic, a psychologist from UCL Department of Hebrew & Jewish Studies, encouraged participants to engage with art as a way of exploring their self-identity.
The workshop started with an introduction about the workings of the brain. Two hemispheres of the brain, the left and right, are associated with different cognitive processes, but are mutually dependent and connected via a ‘highway’ of neural pathways.
The right hemisphere controls the left side of the body and is associated with creativity and language, while the left hemisphere controls the right side of the body and is associated with logic and analytic skills.
When we engage in an action that we’re used to, such as writing or drawing with the hand we use (the dominant hand), our brain automatically connects between the two hemispheres and allows us to perform the action without thinking about it.
To demonstrate how the brain works, participants spent five minutes doodling with their dominant hand using crayons, colouring pencils and chalks, but were told not to think about what they were drawing. This was to encourage creativity and get participants used to free drawing.
However, they were then asked to doodle for another five minutes using their other hand. This was done to further encourage creativity, as William Donius (2012) argues that using your non-dominant hand can enhance creativity.
After five minutes, participants were asked to reflect on the exercises, which had taken far more concentration when using the non-dominant hand.
In a final task, participants were asked to think of a character and create a storyboard based on six key features of a story. These were a main character in a setting, a task for the main character, obstacles facing them, things that could help, the climax or main action of the story and the aftermath or consequences of the story.
After creating the stories, participants were again asked to reflect on their work: how did it make them feel? Did they have any resemblance to the characters? Did the situation that the main character found themselves in reflect a similar one for them?
These questions were to help explore whether the creative stories revealed something about participants’ self-identity.
Belinda, the session leader, explained that as people enter adulthood, they are often reluctant to express themselves through art and explore the fun and creativity it can bring.
Furthermore, she emphasised that everyone is creative, but this can be in different ways. She drew on a study (Selby, Treffinger & Isaksen, 2007) that differentiates between explorers and developers in creativity.
Explorers enjoy working from a ‘blank canvas’, whereas developers thrive on moulding and modifying something that already exists. She encouraged participants to think differently and put themselves in their stories to promote creativity and alternative perspectives.
To support participants after the session, a goodie bag was supplied containing ‘springboard’ items such as words or objects that were hoped to encourage participants’ continuation of creativity and alternative thinking.