the magic of priming

In deep thoughts, learning by Jay Clouse

One winter quarter my freshman year of college, I took a 7am session of Psychology 101 across campus. I distinctly remember the trudge across campus in the snow and wind, wondering why I took such an early morning class during the winter.

But I loved the class, and I find myself spending more and more time digging into anthropology and psychology. There were several pieces of that class I took with me and still find myself using, including a method for efficiently solving problems with little effort.

You know when seemingly out of nowhere you’ll remember the name of that song you were trying to think of? That’s how I solve problems — and it comes from Priming.*

Basically, because you introduced the problem/stimulus of trying to figure out the name of that song, your brain was working in the background to solve the puzzle — and it was considering other stimulants/inputs around you while doing so. And even though you may not be consciously considering that puzzle at the time, when a solution is found you register it.

I intentionally prime my brain all the time. If I have a problem I need to solve (for example, a writing topic, figuring out how to access someone, creating new messaging for a page, determining a strategic response to an email) I’ll consider that problem and then move on to a different task.

Usually I’ll pick something like running, meditating, eating, cleaning, or showering. Stuff that doesn’t require much mental firepower, and doesn’t demand that I think about anything really.

More often than not, by putting myself in this pseudo-conscious headspace, I’ll have inspiration “strike” and find a solution or idea.

I find that the more I press to think of a solution, the harder time I have doing it. But by creating more space and letting thoughts come and go, I much more efficiently solve problems — and sometimes I come out of it with a good workout or clean apartment too!

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