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SNAPReview - SNAP
Seizing Your Aha! Moments
by Katherine Ramsland
Prometheus Books, 2012
Review by A. P. Bober
Aug 14th 2012 (Volume 16, Issue 33)

Ramsland, whom the dust-jacket describes as one who “holds graduatea degrees in forensic psychology, clinical psychology, criminal justice, and philosophy” is the kind of Renaissance person you would expect to write an updated version of the creative process others encapsulate as immersion in rich data with a focused problem, simmering, leading to the moment when everything comes together all at once.  It may serve as a model for what she (199) and others call mystical experience.  The parallel process that she alliterates as scan, sift, solve involves a balanced process of problem-focused intensity, intuition, memory structuring, leading to the “aha” moment.

She unfolds her vision in eleven chapters of undemanding text, with a glossary and chapter references that would have avoided repetition by alphabetizing the authors at the end with parenthetical references in the text.  In addition to eleven suggestions to aid the process (246-7) and ten point on brainstorming (251), the reader could as well preview the three- to four-dozen end-of-chapter key points better to appreciate the initial reading.  A few selections follow to give a sense of the whole:

--Snaps involve insight plus momentum.

--Snaps arise best in activities with meaningful goals in which you can experience full absorption and from which you can gain  an enriching sense of reward.

--People who acquire the skill to snap learn to merge the respective strengths of short- and long-term memory to produce a more muscular working memory.

--Memory templates absorb deposits from our efforts and experience, preparing to assist us to snap.

--Snapping comes from knowledge, mental play, memory, and the alert mind.

--Data mining extracts hidden patterns from data, which offers new information.

--Among effective ways to snap is with a group of like-minded people with a common vision and the passion to work toward it.

--The appreciation for cross-fertilization and the vigilance for fresh ideas are significant factors.

--Satisfaction in one's work is important for effective snaps.

--The desire to improve or discover something new in one's field drives momentum.

--Frustration coupled with goal-driven behavior offers conditions for a snap.

--Successful snappers recognize how they generated flashes of insight and will replicate those conditions.

Identifying with the many cases of persons who have gathered disparate data for the solution of intensely felt problems, the reader will no doubt feel uplifted reading about Bell, Crick, Custer (not just a blustering militarist), Mozart, Polgár, Vidocq, Sullenberger, Wiles, among many others.  Doctor Joseph Bell, the Scottish medical school mentor of Arthur Conan Doyle, provides us with a totally recognizable model for the Sherlock Holmes we know so well.  He also does not quite fit the aha! case except as he solves a complex investigation, a thing he did in real life for the police.  Normally he simply deduces from a rich data base what he carefully observes before him, as memorialized in his medical school as The Method.

The reader can as well not fail to sense a lingering dissatisfaction in that although she accompanies the author on a voyage touching many uncharted islands in an up-to-date summary of the field, the book itself does not lead to a focused aha! moment.  For example, the author could have produced one or more empirically responsive “operational” definitions, albeit cumbersome, of the entire process, somewhat varied for uniquely different cases, like that of Bell.

I will attempt a rough draft of such an exemplary definition, concluding with my own liberal translation of such a definition from an ancient imposer of mentality upon the world from Western philosophy.  “Snap” is a frantically driven search through familiar cumulated data organized in both short- and long-term memory schemas that ultimately breaks through, after a fallow period, to an integrated, whole-person image resulting in a fully expressed, momentarily comprehensive elaboration.  Recalling mystical experience as noted above, Jacob Boehme, the shoemaker, after such a frustrated search, arrived at the comprehensive solution of his problem in the gleam of sunlight on a pewter cup.  Doing so he had the feeling that in that brief moment it was as if he had gone through years of university study.  R. M. Bucke's book on cosmic consciousness includes that case and many others of the type.

In what has come to be known as fragment 19, Heraclitus gives us a briefer statement in the guise of a definition of wisdom:  “Wisdom consists in the ever expansive circuit of intuitive reasoning by which all things are connected to and through all other things.”  We recall as told by Xenophon in the Memorabilia those nights and days in which that master of the philosophically definitive aha!, Socrates, stands motionless pondering a problem amidst the clash and clang of battle until, problem solved, he eventually just walks away.

 

 

© 2012 Anthony P. Bober

 

 

A.P. Bober has studied a psychology spanning Skinner and a humanistic-clinical view based on existential phenomenology and had been a PhD candidate in a substantive yet philosophic European-based sociology including the "critical" view. His teaching augmented courses in group theory/"small-group developmental dynamics" (lab) while introducing "sociology of knowledge" and "issues in biological anthropology," with publications in the first two fields. Currently he is writing a book on mystical experience as metaphorically tied to neuroendocrinology.


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