Monday, May 19, 2014


No, this is not a word I think I know but don't really, which is the standard fare here. This is a word I know I never knew before. It was coined by Arthur Koestler in his 1964 book, The Act of Creation, which I am surely going to grab a copy of. But the reason I know about it is the Slate article by James Harbeck that I just read, which is all about how "Advertisers Trick Your Brain by Turning Adjectives Into Nouns".

The definition of bisociation is "a mental process in which an idea or object is operating independently in two different fields or planes meeting at a point", or as Harbeck puts it:

"In a nutshell, you have two things operating according to two different scripts, and, at the point where they meet, you jump from one to the other."

Puns are cited in all the definitions I was able to come across as a prime and easily understood example of the phenomenon. The more recent development of mashups would be another bisociation result.

In a nice little piece by Maria Popova at Brainpickings explaining Koestler's idea on this, it comes across that most of our normal thinking is associative, but creative thinking is bisociative. It makes a not ordinary leap.

I will also direct you to a post I put up on our Finnegans Wake blog yesterday. Normally, I do not inflict the Wake on people who haven't volunteered of their own free will, but the post isn't so much about the Wake as about Henri Bergson's thoughts about Creation, creation, creators. So give it a go if you're interested. If creativity is bisociative, Joyce was quadrasociative at the very least...


  1. Oooh, love this! Yes! And a favorite novel from college reading was Darkness At Noon!

  2. Yes, Koestler was part of my early adulthood too. Although I have to say I was a bit put off by his wife's decision to join him in death at the end. Call me a non-romantic...

  3. Yes! Getting the bisociative creativity concept. Boiled down for preschoolers, it is the Dr. Seuss Yop.

  4. Yes, I'm fairly sure that preschoolers are more adept at bisociativeness than I am. Get 'em going early!

  5. Damn me, this may be the first word you've put up that I had never heard of or read.