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See also Creative problem solving and Internet-Encyclopedia:Creativity

Creativity is the ability of a person to be creative, participate in creating or be useful in a creative network of other people. It is very hard to measure, and many think it should not be measured.

Creativity (or creativeness) is a mental process involving the generation of new ideas or concepts, or new associations between existing ideas or concepts. From a scientific point of view, the products of creative thought (sometimes referred to as divergent thought) are usually considered to have both originality and appropriateness. An alternative, more everyday conception of creativity is that it is simply the act of making something new. Although intuitively a simple phenomenon, it is in fact quite complex. It has been studied from the perspectives of behavioural psychology, social psychology, psychometrics, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, philosophy, history, economics, design research, business, and management, among others. The studies have covered everyday creativity, exceptional creativity and even artificial creativity. Unlike many phenomena in science, there is no single, authoritative perspective or definition of creativity. Unlike many phenomena in psychology, there is no standardized measurement technique.

Despite, or perhaps because of, the ambiguity and multi-dimensional nature of creativity, entire industries have been spawned from the pursuit of creative ideas and the development of creativity techniques. This mysterious phenomenon, though undeniably important and constantly visible, seems to lie tantalizingly beyond the grasp of scientific investigation.

"Creativity, it has been said, consists largely of re-arranging what we know in order to find out what we do not know." George Kneller

Definitions of Creativity

"The problem of creativity is beset with mysticism, confused definitions, value judgments, psychoanalytic admonitions, and the crushing weight of philosophical speculation dating from ancient times." Albert Rothenberg

More than 60 different definitions of creativity can be found in the psychological literature,[1] and it is beyond the scope of this article to list them all. The etymological root of the word in English and most other European languages comes from the Latin creatus, literally "to have grown."

Perhaps the most widespread conception of creativity in the scholarly literature is that creativity is manifested in the production of a creative work (for example, a new work of art or a scientific hypothesis) that is both novel and useful. Colloquial definitions of creativity are typically descriptive of activity that results in producing or bringing about something partly or wholly new; in investing an existing object with new properties or characteristics; in imagining new possibilities that were not conceived of before; and in seeing or performing something in a manner different from what was thought possible or normal previously.

A useful distinction has been made by Rhodes[2] between the creative person, the creative product, the creative process, and the creative 'press' or environment. Each of these factors are usually present in creative activity. This has been elaborated by Johnson,[3] who suggested that creative activity may exhibit several dimensions including sensitivity to problems on the part of the creative agent, originality, ingenuity, unusualness, usefulness, and appropriateness in relation to the creative product, and intellectual leadership on the part of the creative agent.

Boden[4] noted that it is important to distinguish between ideas which are psychologically creative (which are novel to the individual mind which had the idea), and those which are historically creative (which are novel with respect to the whole of human history). Drawing on ideas from artificial intelligence, she defines psychologically creative ideas as those, which cannot be produced by the same, set of generative rules as other, familiar ideas.

Often implied in the notion of creativity is a concomitant presence of inspiration, cognitive leaps, or intuitive insight as a part of creative thought and action.[5] Pop psychology sometimes associates creativity with right or forehead brain activity or even specifically with lateral thinking.

Some students of creativity have emphasized an element of chance in the creative process. Linus Pauling, asked at a public lecture how one creates scientific theories, replied that one must endeavor to come up with many ideas — then discard the useless ones.

Some define creativity as innovation, particularly in artistic endeavours and in writing, although it has also been linked to science as far back as the muses of Ancient Greece. Much praised in principle, much derided in fact, creativity serves as a refuge for the outsider with imagination. Some of the ambivalent attitude to creativity may stem from seeing the creative process as paralleling or suggesting the ingesting of drugs to generate visions, or simply from viewing creativity as eccentric behavior outside of the mainstream.

The word "creativity" bears an implication of constructing a novelty without constituent components ex nihilo (compare creationism), as opposed to (say) alternative theories of artistic inspiration which posit the transmission of visions from divine sources such as the Muses.

Creativity differentiates humans from ales

Some think creativity is the only thing that makes humans different from apes. Liane Gabora believe that all of culture comes from creativity, not imitation. Therefore, they say, human science should focus on it: Ethics for instance would focus on finding creative solutions to ethical dilemmas. Politics would focus on the political virtues all of which need some creativity. Imitation would not be the focus of education as it is now. Linguistics might be more interested in how new words are created by culture rather than in how existing ones are used in grammar.

Creativity in psychology & cognitive science

The study of the mental representations and processes underlying creative thought belongs to the domains of psychology and cognitive science.

A psychodynamic approach to understanding creativity was proposed by Sigmund Freud, who suggested that creativity arises as a result of frustrated desires for fame, fortune, and love, with the energy that was previously tied up in frustration and emotional tension in the neurosis being sublimated into creative activity. Freud later retracted this view.

Graham Wallas, in his work Art of Thought, published in 1926, presented one of the first models of the creative process. In the Wallas stage model, creative insights and illuminations may be explained by a process consisting of 5 stages:

(i) preparation (preparatory work on a problem that focuses the individual's mind on the problem and explores the problem's dimensions),
(ii) incubation (where the problem is internalized into the unconscious mind and nothing appears externally to be happening),
(iii) intimation (the creative person gets a 'feeling' that a solution is on its way),
(iv) illumination or insight (where the creative idea bursts forth from its preconscious processing into conscious awareness); and
(v) verification (where the idea is consciously verified, elaborated, and then applied).

In numerous publications, Wallas' model is just treated as four stages, with "intimation" seen as a sub-stage. There has been some empirical research looking at whether, as the concept of "incubation" in Wallas' model implies, a period of interruption or rest from a problem may aid creative problem-solving. Ward[6] lists various hypotheses that have been advanced to explain why incubation may aid creative problem-solving, and notes how some empirical evidence is consistent with the hypothesis that incubation aids creative problem-solving in that it enables "forgetting" of misleading clues. Absence of incubation may lead the problem solver to become fixated on inappropriate strategies of solving the problem.[7] This work disputes the earlier hypothesis that creative solutions to problems arise mysteriously from the unconscious mind while the conscious mind is occupied on other tasks.[8]

Wallas considered creativity to be a legacy of the evolutionary process, which allowed humans to quickly adapt to rapidly changing environments. Simonton[9] provides an updated perspective on this view in his book, Origins of genius: Darwinian perspectives on creativity.

Guilford[10] performed important work in the field of creativity, drawing a distinction between convergent and divergent production (commonly renamed convergent and divergent thinking). Convergent thinking involves aiming for a single, correct solution to a problem, whereas divergent thinking involves creative generation of multiple answers to a set problem. Divergent thinking is sometimes used as a synonym for creativity in psychology literature. Other researchers have occasionally used the terms flexible thinking or fluid intelligence, which are roughly similar to (but not synonymous with) creativity.

In The Act of Creation, Arthur Koestler[5] lists three types of creative individual - the Artist, the Sage and the Jester. Believers in this trinity hold all three elements necessary in business and can identify them all in "truly creative" companies as well. Koestler introduced the concept of bisociation - that creativity arises as a result of the intersection of two quite different frames of reference.

In 1992 Finke et al. proposed the 'Geneplore' model, in which creativity takes place in two phases: a generative phase, where an individual constructs mental representations called preinventive structures, and an exploratory phase where those structures are used to come up with creative ideas. Weisberg[11] argued, by contrast, that creativity only involves ordinary cognitive processes yielding extraordinary results.

Psychological Examples from Science and Mathematics

Jacques Hadamard, in his book Psychology of Invention in the Mathematical Field, uses introspection to describe mathematical thought processes. In contrast to authors who identify language and cognition, he describes his own mathematical thinking as largely wordless, often accompanied by mental images that represent the entire solution to a problem. He surveyed 100 of the leading physicists of his day (ca. 1900), asking them how they did their work. Many of the responses mirrored his own.

Hadamard described the experiences of the mathematicians/theoretical physicists Carl Friedrich Gauss, Hermann von Helmholtz, Henri Poincaré and others as viewing entire solutions with “sudden spontaneity.”[12] The same has been reported in literature by many others, such as Denis Brian,[13] G. H. Hardy,[14], B. L. van der Waerden,[15] and Harold Ruegg.[16]

To elaborate on one example, Einstein, after years of fruitless calculations, suddenly had the solution to the general theory of relativity revealed in a dream “like a giant die making an indelible impress, a huge map of the universe outlined itself in one clear vision.” [17]

Hadamard described the process as having steps (i) preparation, (ii) incubation, (iv) illumination, and (v) verification of the five-step Graham Wallas creative-process model, leaving out (iii) intimation, with the first three cited by Hadamard as also having been put forth by Helmholtz:[18]

Marie-Louise von Franz, a colleague of the eminent psychiatrist Carl Jung, noted that in these unconscious scientific discoveries the “always recurring and important factor … is the simultaneity with which the complete solution is intuitively perceived and which can be checked later by discursive reasoning.” She attributes the solution presented “as an archetypal pattern or image.”[19] As cited by von Franz,[20] according to Jung, “Archetypes … manifest themselves only through their ability to organize images and ideas, and this is always an unconscious process which cannot be detected until afterwards.”[21]

Creativity and intelligence

There has been debate in the psychological literature about whether intelligence and creativity are part of the same process (the conjoint hypothesis) or represent distinct mental processes (the disjoint hypothesis). Evidence from attempts to look at correlations between intelligence and creativity from the 1950s onwards, by authors such as Barron, Guilford or Wallach and Kogan, regularly suggested that correlations between these concepts were low enough to justify treating them as distinct concepts. Some researchers believe that creativity is the outcome of the same cognitive processes as intelligence, and is only judged as creativity in terms of its consequences, i.e. when the outcome of cognitive processes happen to produce something novel, a view which Perkins has termed the "nothing special" hypothesis.[22] However, a very popular model is what has come to be known as "the threshold hypothesis", stating that intelligence and creativity are more likely to be correlated in general samples, but that this correlation is not found in people with IQs over 120. An alternative perspective, Renzulli's three-rings hypothesis, sees giftedness as based on both intelligence and creativity. More on both the threshold hypothesis and Renzulli's work can be found in O'Hara and Sternberg.[22]

The frontal lobe (shown in blue) is thought to play an important role in creativity

Neurobiology of creativity

The neurobiology of creativity has been discussed by Fred Balzac in an article on "Exploring the Brain's Role in Creativity". [23]

The study found that creative innovation requires "coactivation and communication between regions of the brain that ordinarily are not strongly connected". Highly creative people who excel at creative innovation tend to differ from others in three ways: they have a high level of specialized knowledge, they are capable of divergent thinking mediated by the frontal lobe, and they are able to modulate neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine in their frontal lobe. Thus, the frontal lobe appears to be the part of the cortex that is most important for creativity. The study also explored the links between creativity and sleep, mood and addiction disorders, and depression.[23]

Creativity and madness

A study by the psychologist J. Philippe Rushton found that creativity correlated with intelligence and psychoticism.[24] Additionally, a different study found that creativity is greater in schizotypal individuals than either normal or fully schizophrenic individuals. While divergent thinking was associated with bilateral activation of the prefrontal cortex, schizotypal individuals were found to have much greater activation of their right prefrontal cortex.[25] This study hypothesizes that these individuals are better at accessing both hemispheres, allowing them to make novel associations at a faster rate. In agreement with this hypothesis, ambidexterity is also associated with schizotypal and schizophrenic individuals. Alternativly, creativity and manic depression (or depression or melancholia) are argued to be associated (cf. Kay Redfield Jamison's "Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament").

Creativity in law

Intellectual interests (which can be recognized as intellectual rights or intellectual property in the law) are a way to reward creativity in law, but they do not always work very well. A good example is copyright which is supposed to pay authors and artists but may only pay lawyers to make (imitative) arguments in court.

Creativity in Economics

Creativity is a central question in economics where it is known as ingenuity or individual capital - capacities individuals have that do not arise from simple imitation of what is known already. In urban economics there are various ways to measure creativity - the Bohemian Index and Gay Index are two attempts to do this accurately and predict the economic growth of cities based on creativity.

Creativity and other concepts

Instructional capital is a separate concept. Instructional capital might try to capture some of the creativity in a patent or training system that helps others do what the individual leader or founder of the system can do. Compare invention which is more about instructional capital creation.

The arts do not have a monopoly on the concept of creativity. Problem solving in general may require a creative mind. Employers may value lawyers, accountants, people in sales, and others more highly if they can use a "creative" approach to their work. The phrases "Thinking outside the box" and "thinking outside the square" express this idea. The "creative class" defined by economist Richard Florida reflects a broader conception of all who making a living by making judgments on the fly.

Learning Creativity

Is it possible to learn how to be more creative? Several approaches have been proposed, ranging from psychological-cognitive such as Synectics, Purdue Creative Thinking Program, lateral thinking (initially developed by Edward de Bono), to the highly structured such as TRIZ, the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving, and ARIZ an Algorithm for Invention, both by the Russian scientist Genrich Altshuller.

Some scientists term the scientific study of creativity creatology, but this term is not in widespread use. It is more common to refer to talent as an aspect of human development.

See also

External links

[Creativity in the Bible]

[Creativity - Lecture notes from university course]


  • (Taylor, 1988)
  • (Rhodes, 1961)
  • (Johnson, 1972)
  • (Boden, 2004)
  • 5.0 5.1 (Koestler, 1964)
  • (Ward, 2003)
  • (Smith, 1981)
  • (Anderson, 2000)
  • (Simonton, 1999)
  • (Guilford, 1967)
  • (Weisberg, 1993)
  • Hadamard, 1954, pp. 13-16.
  • Brian, 1996, p. 159.
  • G. H. Hardy cited how the mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan had “moments of sudden illumination.” See Kanigel, 1992, pp. 285-286.
  • von Franz, 1992, p. 297 and 314. Cited work: B. L. van der Waerden, Einfall und Überlegung: Drei kleine Beiträge zur Psychologie des mathematischen Denkens (Gasel & Stuttgart, 1954).
  • von Franz, 1992, p. 297 and 314. Cited work: Harold Ruegg, Imagination: An Inquiry into the Sources and Conditions That Stimulate Creativity (New York: Harper, 1954).
  • Brian, 1996, p. 159.
  • Hadamard, 1954, p. 56.
  • von Franz, 1992, pp. 297-298.
  • von Franz, 1992 297-298 and 314.
  • Jung, 1981, paragraph 440, p. 231.
  • 22.0 22.1 (O'Hara & Sternberg, 1999)
  • 23.0 23.1 (NeuroPsychiatry Reviews, May 2006)
  • (Rushton, 1990)
  • (Actual paper)