Ability to produce something new through imaginative skill, whether a new solution to a problem, a new method or device, or a new artistic object or form. The term generally refers to a richness of ideas and originality of thinking. Psychological studies of highly creative people have shown that many have a strong interest in apparent disorder, contradiction, and imbalance, which seem to be perceived as challenges. Such individuals may possess an exceptionally deep, broad, and flexible awareness of themselves. Studies also show that intelligence has little correlation with creativity; thus, a highly intelligent person may not be very creative. genius; gifted child.

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Creativity is the ability to think up and design new inventions, produce works of art, solve problems in new ways, or develop an idea based on an original, novel, or unconventional approach.


Creativity is the ability to see something in a new way, to see and solve problems no one else may know exists, and to engage in mental and physical experiences that are new, unique, or different. Creativity is a critical aspect of a person's life, starting from inside the womb onward through adulthood.

Although many people equate creativity with intelligence, the two terms are not synonymous, and it is not necessary to have a genius-level IQ in order to be creative. While creative people do tend to have average or above-average scores on IQ tests, beyond an IQ of about 120 there is little correlation between intelligence and creativity. Researchers have found environment to be more important than heredity in influencing creativity, and a child's creativity can be either strongly encouraged or discouraged by early experiences at home and in school.

Standard intelligence tests measure convergent thinking, which is the ability to come up with a single correct answer. However, creativity involves divergent thinking, which is the ability to come up with new and unusual answers.

Creative individuals tend to share certain characteristics, including a tendency to be more impulsive or spontaneous than others. Nonconformity (not going along with the majority) can also be a sign of creativity. Many creative individuals are naturally unafraid of experimenting with new things; furthermore, creative people are often less susceptible to peer pressure, perhaps because they also tend to be self-reliant and unafraid to voice their true feelings even if those go against conventional wisdom.

Creativity in childhood is typically assessed through paper-and-pencil measures such as the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking. These tests are designed to measure divergent thinking, such as fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration. Signification criticisms have been raised about these tests as measures of creativity. First is the general problem that there are no universally accepted definitions of creativity. Second, critics of creativity tests argue that these tests do not measure creativity per se but instead reflect the specific abilities that are assessed by the tests. Third, the scores on these tests often depend partly on speed, which is not necessarily a criterion for creativity. A final consistent concern relates to the scoring of creativity tests, which by definition are somewhat subjective. Thus, the reliability of such tests is commonly questioned.


Scientific research in the late twentieth century revealed how the quality of interaction with unborn infants affects their later development of creative abilities. From birth to 18 months, infants can be encouraged to engage in creativity by playing with a variety of safe household materials, such as margarine tubs, empty boxes, and large empty spools. Parents and caregivers can encourage experimentation by showing excitement and interest in what babies do.

Parents can encouraged infants to develop creativity by singing to the infant and playing music, moving the infant's hands to music, hanging a colorful mobile over the crib, placing pictures and photos where the baby can focus on them, and playing sound games with infants, such making up nonsense words or using rhyming words when talking to them.


From ages 18 months to four years, toddlers have progressively better hand and eye coordination. Caregivers should give them opportunities to develop this coordination by allowing them to draw with water-based paints, with chalk, and with crayons. Toddlers also can develop their creativity by pasting, tearing, cutting, printing, modeling with clay or play dough, or working with various materials to create collage, and for the older child, experimenting with fabric, tie dye, batik, printing, and simple woodwork.

From around 12 months, children may begin to imitate things that adults do. Real fantasy play begins at around ages 18 to 21 months. This should not prevent caregivers from playing imaginatively from a younger age, since fantasy play is linked to creativity. Studies have shown that children with very active fantasies tend to have personality traits that contribute to creativity—originality, spontaneity, verbal fluency, and a higher degree of flexibility in adapting to new situations.

Children who fantasize a lot have unusually good inner resources for amusing themselves. Parents can provide materials that lend themselves to fantasy play (dressing-up clothes, dolls, housecleaning sets, and stuffed animals), play pretending games with their children, and make suggestions and encourage new ideas when toddlers play alone.

Adults should start involving toddlers with creative activities as soon as they feel the child will enjoy them. Adults need to remember that young toddlers are not skillful enough to consciously produce works of art. At 18 months they may be more ready for creative play and even at this age, they may spend no more than five minutes of concentration on any one activity.


Preschoolers can use the same materials as toddlers but can use them in more complex ways. By age five, many children start drawing recognizable objects. By age six, they are usually interested in explaining their art works. They also like to tell stories and can make books of their stories, including drawing pictures to accompany the writing.

At this age fantasy play becomes more complex. Preschoolers often direct each other on what to do or say as they play "Let's pretend." Play is a critical part of developing creativity, according to Mary Mindess, a child psychology professor at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "Play allows children to construct meaning for themselves," Mindess stated in an article in the August 2001 newsletter The Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter. "Two children may share an experience, but each will process the experience differently. Very often during play, children take things they see in real life, or things they imagine they experience—like something they read in a book or saw on television—and make meaning of it," she wrote. As an example, she cites Mark Twain's stories about Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn as good role-playing examples. "They include many examples of play," she wrote. "If, as in a scene in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, a child pretends to be a riverboat captain, there's a lot more to that role-playing than simply knowing what a captain does and some basic boat terminology. There are feelings that accompany the role-playing: mainly, the power of being captain and the satisfaction in the ability to make decisions."

School Age

Early school-age children, six to nine years, incorporate lots of fantasy into their play, including action games with superheroes. Children of this age group spend much of their time daydreaming. Some daydreams become "real" as children begin to act them out in stories and plays.

Many researchers believe that in order to foster creativity in schools, education should be based on the discovery of knowledge and the development of critical attitudes, rather than on the passive absorption of knowledge. They believe this applies whether the class is in art, history, science, or humanities. However, most school teaching in the United States is based on the child's ability to memorize. The highest marks are often given to those who merely studied their lessons well. The pupil whose creative side is more developed may be considered a disruptive member of the class.

For this reason some educators decided to encourage creativity outside the school system. Science clubs are open to the young, in different countries, in which students can unleash their ideas and imagination. Student science fairs are also useful in developing creativity.

In the United States, children who participate in the nationwide invention contest organized by the Weekly Reader do not have to submit a model. A drawing or a photograph is sufficient to enter the contest, the purpose of which is to stimulate creative thinking among all the students in a class, all becoming involved in the process of invention either individually or in small groups. The class then chooses the best invention that will be presented later at the level of the national contest.

At ages nine to 12, children's creativity is greatly affected by peer influence. They increase the amount of detail and use of symbols in drawings. They also have expanded their individual creative differences and begin to develop their own set of creative values.

Teenagers are highly critical of the products they make and ideas they have. They try to express themselves creatively in a more adult-like way. Their creativity is influenced by their individual differences, physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially. In most high schools, classes that stress creativity, such as art, music, writing, and drama are electives and many may not be required. For many adolescents, high school is their last opportunity to take these creative classes.

Also, teens become more self-aware and self-conscious. This focus often causes them to conform to their peers, which stifles their creativity and makes their thoughts less flexible. Flexibility refers to the ability to consider various alternatives at the same time.

Common Problems

Rewards or incentives appear to interfere with creativity and reduce children's flexibility of thought. Studies show that any constraints such as structured instructions reduce creative flexibility in children. Many parents and teachers do not understand that children who are creative are often involved in imaginary play and are motivated by internal rather than external factors.

Parental Concerns

Environment appears to play a greater role than heredity in the development of creativity: identical twins reared apart show greater differences in creativity than in intellectual ability. Family environments with certain characteristics have been found to be more conducive to creativity than others. One of these characteristics is a relaxed parental attitude rather than one that is overly anxious or authoritarian.

On the whole, the families of creative children discipline them without rigid restrictions, teaching them respect for values above rules. Similarly, they emphasize achievement rather than grades. The parents in such homes generally lead active, fulfilling lives themselves and have many interests. Finally, they reinforce creativity in their children by a general attitude of respect and confidence toward them and by actively encouraging creative pursuits and praising the results. It has been found that creativity in both children and adults is affected by positive reinforcement.

Positive reinforcement has also been shown to boost fifth graders' scores on creativity tests, help sixth graders write more original stories, and lead college students to produce novel word associations. Studies have also found that positively reinforcing one kind of creative activity encourages original thinking in other areas as well.

Just as certain actions and attitudes on the part of parents can encourage creativity, others have been found to discourage it. Devising restrictive guidelines or instructions for an activity reduces its potential as a creative experience. Unrestricted, imaginative play is central to creativity in children—exposure to new objects and activities stimulates the senses, reinforces exploratory impulses, and results in the openness to new experiences and ideas that foster creative thinking. In addition, anything that takes the focus away from the creative act itself and toward something external to it can be damaging. For example, knowing that one's efforts are going to be evaluated tends to restrict the creative impulse, as does knowing of the possibility of a prize or other reward.

Schools as well as families can encourage creativity by offering children activities that give them an active role in their own learning, allow them freedom to explore within a loosely structured framework, and encourage them to participate in creative activities for the sheer enjoyment of it rather than for external rewards.

When to Call the Doctor

Several studies have shown relationships sometimes exist between creativity and mental illness, including depression, schizophrenia, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

For decades, scientists have known that eminently creative individuals have a much higher rate of manic depression or bipolar disorder than does the general population. But few controlled studies have been done to build the link between mental illness and creativity. One study that does support such a link was presented at the 2002 annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association by Stanford University researchers Connie Strong and Terence Ketter. Using personality and temperament tests, they found healthy artists to be more similar in personality to individuals with manic depression than to healthy people in the general population.

While creativity itself is not a sign of mental illness, parents should be aware that there is a much higher degree of mental illness, especially depression and bipolar disorder, in creative children than in their less creative peers.



Bruce, Tina.Cultivating Creativity in Babies, Toddlers, & Young Children. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2004.

Einon, Dorothy. Creative Child: Recognize and Stimulate Your Child's Natural Talent. Hauppauge, NY: Barron's Educational Series, 2002.

Fisher, Robert, and Mary Williams. Unlocking Creativity: A Teacher's Guide to Creativity Across the Curriculum. London: Taylor & Francis, 2004.

Runco, Mark A., and Robert S. Albert. Theories of Creativity. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2004.


"Biological Basis for Creativity Linked to Mental Illness." Mental Health Weekly Digest (October 27, 2003): 4.

Carruthers, Peter. "Human Creativity: Its Cognitive Basis, Its Evolution, and Its Connection with Childhood Pretence." British Journal for the Philosophy of Science (June 2002): 225–49.

Mindess, Mary. "Play: The New Dirty Word." The Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter (August 2001): 1.

Talsma, Julia. "Encourage Creative Process to Spur Innovation: Dr. Kelman Outlines Three Elements of Creativity: Inspiration, Insight, Intuition." Ophthalmology Times (June 15, 2003): 50.

Tecco, Betsy Dru. "Unleash Your Creativity! When You Take the Time to be Creative, a World of Possibilities Unfolds." Current Health 2. (December 2003): 14–18.;

Underwood, Anne. "Real Rhapsody in Blue: A Quirky Phenomenon that Scientists Once Dismissed Could Help Explain the Creativity of the Human Brain." Newsweek (December 1, 2003): 67.


American Creativity Association. PO Box 5856, Philadelphia, PA 19128. Web site:

Web Sites

Fowler, Lynda K. "Encouraging Creativity in Children." Ohio State University Extension, 2004. Available online at (accessed November 23, 2004).

"Good Times Being Creative." National Network for Child Care, February 2004. Available online at (accessed November 23, 2004).

[Article by: Ken R. Wells]

The aspect of intelligence characterized by originality of thought and problem solving. Creativity involves divergent thinking, that is, thoughts directed widely towards a number of varied solutions.

The term "creativity" is not used by Sigmund Freud but the concept is Freudian if we understand it to mean the creative imagination embodied in fantasies or daydreams. These may or may not receive further elaboration and be transformed into a work of art, regardless of its specific nature. However, it is primarily Melanie Klein and Donald Winnicott who are responsible for establishing the concept as an active attitude of the ego with respect to its objects.

As early as the Studies on Hysteria (1895d), Freud realized that the world of fantasy (Anna O's private theater) can take the place of the real world, and this includes the researcher captivated by his subject. In discussing humor (1905c), Freud also emphasized the freedom of the intellect in the face of highly constrained situations. Literary creation (1908e [1907]) appeared to Freud as an extension of children's daydreams, situations in which the fantasy is affirmed in the face of the empire of reality, without, however, leading the subject to misinterpret it as happens in delusional states. It is precisely this ability, whose origin remains mysterious, to turn fantasies into a reality inscribed in a work of art and therefore something that can be shared with others, that constitutes creativity, regardless of the field of endeavor. Freud was especially interested in literary (Dostoyevsky, Hoffmann, Jensen) and artistic creation (Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo).

Melanie Klein (1929) had a very different outlook on creativity, which she saw as an impulse experienced by the infant to repair the object that had been initially split into good and bad and attacked during the paranoid phase. The creative function is therefore initially curative but goes hand in hand with the representation of a unified object. In this sense the creative function constitutes a reconstitution of the ego and the object, which having been simultaneously destroyed, subsist in an empty or mutilated state.

Donald Winnicott (1971) gave the fullest extension to the concept of creativity by emphasizing its function as an attitude in the face of outside reality and not necessarily successful or recognized creative work. He contrasted creativity and submission to the outside world but, unlike Freud, emphasized the fact that fantasy life could diverge from the creative attitude. Fantasizing is not living but can, on the contrary, as Freud noted with respect to hysterics, isolate the individual from life; it will never serve as an object of communication.

For Winnicott, while creativity is related to dreaming and living, it is not really a part of our fantasy life. The experience of self can only be achieved through that physical and mental creative activity whose model is game playing. Creativity is not the creative capacity but something universal, inherent in the very fact of living. In the case where the individual submits to outside reality to the point of losing himself in it (false self), his creativity disappears and remains hidden without however being destroyed. It is in this way deprived of contact with the experience of life. "The creative impulse," Winnicott writes, "is present as much in the moment-by-moment living of a backward child who is enjoying breathing as it is in the inspiration of an architect who suddenly knows what it is that he wishes to construct" (1982, p. 69).

The concept of creativity is much closer to the question of activity than to the production of a work of art. This aspect is only sketched out by Freud but was theorized by Winnicott for whom the concept is associated with considerations of the ego and non-ego and the transitional space that serves as an "outlet" for primary narcissism.


Freud, Sigmund. (1905c). Jokes and their relation to the unconscious. SE, 8: 1-236.

——. (1908e [1907]). Creative writers and day-dreaming. SE, 9: 143-153.

Klein, Melanie. (1975). Infantile anxiety situations reflected in a work of art and in the creative impulse. In The Writings of Melanie Klein (Vol. 1). London: Hogarth. (Reprinted from International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 10, (1929) 436-443.)

Winnicott, Donald. (1982). Playing and reality. London: Routledge.

Further Reading

Nagera, Humberto. (1967). The concepts of structure and structuralization: psychoanalytic usage and implications for a theory of learning and creativity. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 22, 77-102.

Niederland, William. G. (1976). Psychoanalytic approaches to artistic creativity. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 45, 185-212.


Creativity is the ability and disposition to produce novelty. Children's play and high accomplishments in art, science, and technology are traditionally called creative, but any type of activity or product, whether ideational, physical, or social, can be creative.


Creativity has been associated with a wide range of behavioral and mental characteristics, including associations between semantically remote ideas and contexts, application of multiple perspectives, curiosity, flexibility in thought and action, rapid generation of multiple, qualitatively different solutions and answers to problems and questions, tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty, and unusual uses of familiar objects.

Biographical studies of exceptionally creative individuals have uncovered recurring features. Creative individuals typically master a practice or tradition before they transform it. They organize their lives around a network of interrelated and mutually supporting enterprises. They are prolific. There is no evidence for an inverse relation between quantity and quality; instead, the two appear to be correlated. Exceptionally creative accomplishments are complex, evolving outcomes of long-term efforts sustained by high levels of intrinsic motivation, often in the absence of societal rewards.

There are many examples of exceptionally creative individuals who led troubled and turbulent lives and there is widespread belief in a relation between creativity and mental disorder, but it has not been conclusively shown that the more frequent such disorders are, the higher the level of creativity.

The rate of professional productivity in art, science, and other creative endeavors increases rapidly at the beginning of a career, reaches a peak in midlife, and then slowly declines. It is not known whether the decline is necessary or a side effect of other factors, for example, health problems. That some individuals begin creative careers late in life is evidence against an inevitable decline.

Creativity As Ability

All individuals with healthy brains have some degree of creative potential, but individuals vary in how much novelty they in fact produce. Psychometric measures of creativity are based on the hypothesis that the ability to create is general across domains of activity (art, business, music, technology, etc.) and stable over time. This view implies that a person whose creativity is above average in one domain can be expected to be above average in other domains also.

The Remote Associations Test (RAT) developed by Sarnoff A. Mednick measures how easily a person can find a link between semantically different concepts. E. Paul Torrance's Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT) measures divergent production, that is, how many different answers to a question a person can provide within a time limit. For example, a person might be asked to propose alternative titles to a well-known movie. More recent tests developed by Robert J. Sternberg uses complex test items from realistic contexts. Creativity tests correlate modestly with each other. Critics point out that there are no objective criteria for scoring the responses and that test performance might not be indicative of a creative mind.

Relation to Intelligence

Correlations between creativity tests and IQ tests vary in magnitude from study to study and depend on which tests are used. Some correlations are no smaller than correlations among creativity tests, so they do not provide strong evidence that IQ and creativity are distinct dimensions. The findings can be understood in terms of a so-called triangular correlation (also known as the threshold hypothesis): Individuals in the lower half of the IQ distribution lack the requisite cognitive capacity to create and hence necessarily exhibit low creativity; individuals in the upper half of the IQ distribution have the requisite capacity but may or may not develop a disposition to create. Consequently, creativity and IQ are highly correlated at low IQ levels but weakly correlated at high IQ levels. Alternative interpretations of the relation between creativity and intelligence have been proposed, including that they are two aspects of the same ability, that they are unrelated, and that they are mutually exclusive.

Creativity As Process

The fact that the human mind can generate novel concepts and ideas requires explanation. Cognitive psychologists aim to infer the relevant mental processes from observations of how individuals solve problems that require creativity. One hypothesis states that creation is a process of variation and selection, analogous to biological evolution. The mind of a creative person spontaneously generates a large number of random combinations of ideas, and a few chosen combinations become expressed in behavior. An alternative hypothesis is that a creative person is able to override the constraining influence of past experiences and hence consider a wide range of actions and possibilities. The moment at which a previously unheeded but promising option comes to mind is often referred to as insight. A closely related hypothesis is that creative individuals are more able to break free from mental ruts - trains of thought that recur over and over again even though they do not lead to the desired goal or solution. It has also been suggested that people create by making analogies between current and past problems and situations, and by applying abstractions - cognitive schemas - acquired in one domain to another domain.

These process hypotheses are not mutually exclusive. Each has received support in research studies. Due to the separation within psychology of the cognitive and psychometric traditions, there is little or no interaction between process hypotheses and test development.

Relation to Imagery

There is widespread belief that highly creative individuals think holistically, in visual images, as opposed to the step-by-step process that supposedly characterizes logical thinking. Although consistent with often quoted autobiographical comments by Albert Einstein, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, F. A. Kekulé and others, systematic support for this belief is lacking. There is strong research support for a function for visual imagery in memory recall, but its relevance for creativity is unclear.

Relation to Knowledge

Cognitive and biographical studies have shown that creative problem solutions require thorough knowledge of the relevant domain and domain-specific strategies. For example, scientific discovery depends, in part, on knowing what the current theory predicts, plus the strategy of paying close attention to data that deviate from those predictions; creativity in other domains requires other strategies. It is possible that creativity is not a general ability or process, but that creative behaviors and products emerge when a competent and knowledgeable person is motivated to engage in a cumulative effort over a long period of time. If so, a person who is unusually creative in one domain of activity is not necessarily unusually creative in other domains.

Creativity and Education

It is not known to what extent an individual's ability to create can be enhanced. The popular press produces a steady stream of books that advocate particular techniques and training programs; most have not been evaluated, so it is not known whether they work. The small number of training techniques that have been evaluated systematically produce modest effects. It is possible that more effective training techniques exist but have yet to be invented. Most training programs implicitly assume that creativity is a general ability or process.

Although it is unclear whether the ability to create can be enhanced, there is consensus that the disposition to create can be suppressed. Creativity and discipline are not antithetical - creative individuals practice much and work hard - but extensive reliance on overly structured activities can thwart the impulse to create, with negative effects on students' well-being. Students with high ability will perform better than others in activities that require design, imagination, or invention, but participation in such activities encourages the disposition to create in students at any level of ability.

Creative individuals often elicit negative reactions from others by violating social norms and expectations. In a school setting, care should be taken to distinguish creative students from students who cause disturbances due to emotional or social problems. Creative students who find ways to engage others in their projects are likely to become outgoing and adopt leadership roles. Creative students who experience difficulties in this regard are likely to engage in individual projects. In short, high creativity is compatible with both social and individualistic life styles; either outcome is healthy.

There is widespread concern among educators in Western countries that the trend to define the goals of schooling in terms of standardized tests forces teachers to prioritize fact learning and analytical ability over creativity. Participation in creative activities is emphasized in schools that implement particular pedagogical theories, for example, the Montessori and Waldorf schools.

Broader View

Creativity is a historical force. Art and science transform people's ideas and worldviews, and technological innovation continuously transforms social practices. Toward the end of the twentieth century, the importance of innovation for economic production was widely recognized among business leaders.


Sternberg, Robert J., ed. 1999. Handbook of Creativity. Cambridge, Eng: Cambridge University Press.


One of those terms (intelligence is another) that psychologists use as though they refer to single human characteristics, but which direct us in practice to a number of concerns that are rather separate. Some of these, like 'innovation' and 'discovery', have a bearing on the ideas or objects that people produce; some, like 'self-actualization', refer more to the quality of the life an individual leads; and some, like 'imagination' and 'fantasy', point us, in the first instance, to what goes on inside a person's head. Despite its air of vagueness, the notion of 'creativity' has none the less served an important function among psychologists and teachers, acting as a banner under which ideological battles have been fought, and indicating, too, a somewhat disparate body of research, some of which is of real value.

What is now thought of as the 'creativity movement' had its first stirrings in America in the years after the Second World War. At one level, it was psychology's response to the challenge of Sputnik, and to the fact that little of the best space research was being done by home-grown American scientists — the implication being that there was something deadening about the education that clever young American scientists had received. At another level, it represented a liberal reaction, within psychology, against values which were seen as excessively manipulative and bureaucratic. Translated into the classroom, this concern for creativity expressed itself in a desire to shake education free of rote learning and the set syllabus, multiple-choice examinations, and the IQ test, and to give children the opportunity to make discoveries for themselves.

Although hints of its existence were detectable as early as 1950, this movement was not in full swing until the early 1960s. It seems, in other words, to have been a portent of the liberal and anti-authoritarian mood that dominated university life towards the end of the 1960s, and which, in its turn, provoked its own reaction. By the early 1970s, the more self-consciously scientific psychologists had already begun to reassert the virtues of the IQ test, and to argue in favour of genetic rather than cultural explanations of individual and racial differences.

The founding fathers of psychology were keenly interested, Francis Galton no less than Sigmund Freud, and research has proceeded quietly for 100 years or more. Two sorts of enquiry have been especially fruitful: straightforwardly descriptive studies of the lives that highly original men and women have led; and research on the processes of thinking itself.

In a sense, the evidence of the biographical studies has been largely negative. It has been found, time and again, that those who display great originality as adults were often, like Charles Darwin, only mediocre as students. British scientists who become Fellows of the Royal Society show roughly the same distribution of good, mediocre, and poor degree results as do those who go into research but achieve little. The same holds for intelligence-test scores: above a surprisingly low level, there is little or no relationship between IQ and achievement in any sphere of adult endeavour yet studied. As a result, we would expect future Nobel Prize winners to show roughly the same distribution of IQ scores as their fellow students at university. In the American context, the budding scientist of high renown seems typically to be a 'B+' student: one who works hard when a topic captures his or her imagination, but otherwise does the bare minimum. Science springs to life for such individuals when they discover that instead of assimilating knowledge created by others, they can create knowledge for themselves — and are hooked from that moment onwards.

It is the more detailed studies of thinking that indicate the tensions which underlie such creative effort. Some of the most vivid have concerned mathematicians, and a feature of them is the stress they place on the process of 'incubation'. Often, having struggled with a problem and then put it aside, mathematicians find that the solution comes to them quite unexpectedly, in a flash. The clear implication is that our brains are at their most efficient when allowed to switch from phases of intense concentration to ones in which we exert no conscious control at all.

There are many instances of such 'unconscious' work, one of the more dramatic being that of the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke. In 1912, in the midst of a long poem, the Duino Elegies, Rilke ran out of inspiration, and lapsed into a long period of frustrated depression. Interrupted in any case by the First World War, he was able to write little for a decade. When 'utterance and release' came to him in 1922, it took the shape of a series of poems, the Sonnets to Orpheus, that he had no intention of writing whatever. Eighteen days later, when he had finished both these sonnets and the Duino Elegies, he had produced some 1,200 lines of the pithiest and most carefully poised poetry ever written, and had done so largely without correction, as if taking dictation.

Such evidence encourages us to reconsider the popular idea that genius and madness are closely allied. It is not true, of course, that great poets, painters, scientists, and mathematicians are mad; far from it. On the other hand, it may well be that they work as intensely and imaginatively as they do in order to remain sane; that they have access to aspects of the mind's functioning from which those who live more staid and conventional lives are excluded, and that it is this access which gives their work both its flair and its sense of risk. Rilke's lengthy depression may well have been necessary for the extraordinary burst of creative but also highly disciplined work that followed it.

It is such tensions as these that explain a remark once attributed to Einstein. He suggested that the creative scientists are the ones with access to their dreams. Occasionally, a dream will actually provide the solution to a problem — as in the case of the chemist August Kekulé and his dream of the snake swallowing its own tail, the clue to the nature of the benzene ring. Einstein's point was less specific, though. As Freud realized, in establishing his distinction between primary and secondary process thought, the mind is capable of functioning both intuitively and according to the dictates of common sense. The implication of Einstein's remark is that, in order to innovate, the scientist, like anyone else, must break the grip on his imagination that our powers of logical-seeming storytelling impose. We must be willing to subvert the conventional wisdom on which our everyday competence depends.

It is here that the research done by the advocates of creativity in the 1960s now seems most relevant. Rather than straining to see whether tests of creativity can be devised, to stand side by side with IQ tests (a largely barren exercise, it seems), we can concentrate on an issue that Francis Galton identified over a century ago: the extent to which each individual can retrieve apparently irrational ideas, sift them, and put them to some constructive use. We know that individuals differ in their ability to free-associate, to fantasize, and to recall their dreams. We also know that these differences have a bearing on the kinds of work people find it comfortable to do: among the intelligent, it is those who are relatively good at free associating (the 'divergers') who are attracted towards the arts, while those who are relatively weak in this (the 'convergers') are drawn towards science and technology. What we do not yet know is how the abilities to think logically and to free associate combine to produce work of real value: what qualities of mind, for example, a genuinely imaginative solution to an engineering problem demands, or how a sustained contribution to one of the arts is actually achieved.

(Published 1987)

See also lateral thinking; problem solving; problems: their appeal.

— Liam Hudson

  • Getzels, J. W., and Jackson, P. W. (1962). Creativity and Intelligence.
  • Gruber, H. E., et al. (eds.) (1962). Contemporary Approaches to Creative Thinking.
  • Hadamard, J. (1945). The Psychology of Invention in the Mathematical Field.
  • Hudson, L. (1968). Contrary Imaginations.
  • Sternberg, R. (1999). Handbook of Creativity.

Word Tutor:



IN BRIEF: Imagination.

pronunciation An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail. — Edwin Land. is a free vocabulary and spelling program where you only pay for results!

  1. The act of being creative.
  2. The talent to develop from unrelated ideas, a third idea that was unknown previously.
  3. The ability to be creative is within all of us given a minimum or average intelligence. Some people seem to have a greater propensity toward creative thinking. However, it is not yet clear whether this is genetic, environmental, or because of some innate biological "talent" for insightful thought that manifests itself in this manner. Most anyone can be taught to think inductively rather than deductively, to think in a creative manner rather than to deduce logic from all sensory input. Some feel that the ability to be able to flex mental muscle from (1) scientific reasoning to (2) creative development back and forth quickly correlates to extreme intelligence, but this is also not yet proven. Insight (from Latin meaning inner vision) and inspiration (from Latin meaning inner breath), are two creative aspects of thought. A way of looking at the creative process is to recognize the steps needed to achieve a breakthrough. A sound creative approach employs (whether consciously or not) the following steps:
    Steps in Creation
    Preparation - To be able to tell whether or not something that one thinks of or observes is a breakthrough, one must have some knowledge in the arena the breakthrough is being made. Whether purposeful or information gained through life experience, a modicum of knowledge in the area is essential.
    Incubation - There is a time, be it very long or of short duration that the knowledge gained and observations made stimulate no breakthrough. This is the fact and observation time period.
    Illumination - As in a light that now shows, the period of illumination is the time frame in which the postulation or hypothesis is made. The idea is being generated and becomes focused in the mind.
    Verification - For a good creative idea to be valid, a mental checklist or period of playing the devil's advocate must transpire so that the idea is validated as to its worthiness.
    Implementation - Finally the idea must be proven out in a practical manner. If it is purely a theory of logic or an insight that really cannot be proven in the near future, the period of implementation is postponed, and the verification process goes on. A breakthrough of this type might just be a belief. As an example, a religious belief might not be able to be proven but remains a concept of faith. See Insight, Intuition, Breakthrough Phenomenon, Lateral Thinking.


Creativity is a phenomenon whereby something new and somehow valuable is formed, such as an idea, a scientific theory, an invention, a literary work, a painting, a musical composition, a joke, etc.

Scholarly interest in creativity involves many definitions and concepts pertaining to a number of disciplines: psychology, cognitive science, education, philosophy (particularly philosophy of science), technology, theology, sociology, linguistics, business studies, songwriting, and economics, covering the relations between creativity and general intelligence, mental and neurological processes, personality type and creative ability, creativity and mental health; the potential for fostering creativity through education and training, especially as augmented by technology; and the application of creative resources to improve the effectiveness of teaching and learning.


In a summary of scientific research into creativity, Michael Mumford suggested: "Over the course of the last decade, however, we seem to have reached a general agreement that creativity involves the production of novel, useful products" (Mumford, 2003, p. 110).[1] Creativity can also be defined "as the process of producing something that is both original and worthwhile" or "characterized by originality and expressiveness and imaginative".[2] What is produced can come in many forms and is not specifically singled out in a subject or area. Authors have diverged dramatically in their precise definitions beyond these general commonalities: Peter Meusburger reckons that over a hundred different analyses can be found in the literature.[3]


Theories of creativity (particularly investigation of why some people are more creative than others) have focused on a variety of aspects. The dominant factors are usually identified as "the four Ps" — process, product, person and place (according to Mel Rhodes).[4] A focus on process is shown in cognitive approaches that try to describe thought mechanisms and techniques for creative thinking. Theories invoking divergent rather than convergent thinking (such as Guilford), or those describing the staging of the creative process (such as Wallas) are primarily theories of creative process. A focus on creative product usually appears in attempts to measure creativity (psychometrics, see below) and in creative ideas framed as successful memes.[5] The psychometric approach to creativity reveals that it also involves the ability to produce more.[6] A focus on the nature of the creative person considers more general intellectual habits, such as openness, levels of ideation, autonomy, expertise, exploratory behavior and so on. A focus on place considers the circumstances in which creativity flourishes, such as degrees of autonomy, access to resources and the nature of gatekeepers. Creative lifestyles are characterized by nonconforming attitudes and behaviors as well as flexibility.[6]


The lexeme in the English word creativity comes from the Latin term creō "to create, make": its derivational suffixes also come from Latin. The word "create" appeared in English as early as the 14th century, notably in Chaucer, to indicate divine creation[7] (in The Parson's Tale[8]). However, its modern meaning as an act of human creation did not emerge until after the Enlightenment.[7]

History of the concept[edit]

Greek philosophers like Plato rejected the concept of creativity, preferring to see art as a form of discovery. Asked in The Republic, "Will we say, of a painter, that he makes something?", Plato answers, "Certainly not, he merely imitates."[9]

Ancient views[edit]

Most ancient cultures, including thinkers of Ancient Greece,[9] Ancient China, and Ancient India,[10] lacked the concept of creativity, seeing art as a form of discovery and not creation. The ancient Greeks had no terms corresponding to "to create" or "creator" except for the expression "poiein" ("to make"), which only applied to poiesis (poetry) and to the poietes (poet, or "maker") who made it. Plato did not believe in art as a form of creation. Asked in The Republic,[11] "Will we say, of a painter, that he makes something?", he answers, "Certainly not, he merely imitates."[9]

It is commonly argued that the notion of "creativity" originated in Western culture through Christianity, as a matter of divine inspiration.[7] According to the historian Daniel J. Boorstin, "the early Western conception of creativity was the Biblical story of creation given in the Genesis."[12] However, this is not creativity in the modern sense, which did not arise until the Renaissance. In the Judaeo-Christian tradition, creativity was the sole province of God; humans were not considered to have the ability to create something new except as an expression of God's work.[13] A concept similar to that of Christianity existed in Greek culture, for instance, Muses were seen as mediating inspiration from the Gods.[14] Romans and Greeks invoked the concept of an external creative "daemon" (Greek) or "genius" (Latin), linked to the sacred or the divine. However, none of these views are similar to the modern concept of creativity, and the individual was not seen as the cause of creation until the Renaissance.[15] It was during the Renaissance that creativity was first seen, not as a conduit for the divine, but from the abilities of "great men".[15]

The Enlightenment and after[edit]

The rejection of creativity in favor of discovery and the belief that individual creation was a conduit of the divine would dominate the West probably until the Renaissance and even later.[13] The development of the modern concept of creativity begins in the Renaissance, when creation began to be perceived as having originated from the abilities of the individual, and not God. However, this shift was gradual and would not become immediately apparent until the Enlightenment.[15] By the 18th century and the Age of Enlightenment, mention of creativity (notably in art theory), linked with the concept of imagination, became more frequent.[16] In the writing of Thomas Hobbes, imagination became a key element of human cognition;[7] William Duff was one of the first to identify imagination as a quality of genius, typifying the separation being made between talent (productive, but breaking no new ground) and genius.[14]

As a direct and independent topic of study, creativity effectively received no attention until the 19th century.[14] Runco and Albert argue that creativity as the subject of proper study began seriously to emerge in the late 19th century with the increased interest in individual differences inspired by the arrival of Darwinism. In particular they refer to the work of Francis Galton, who through his eugenicist outlook took a keen interest in the heritability of intelligence, with creativity taken as an aspect of genius.[7]

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, leading mathematicians and scientists such as Hermann von Helmholtz (1896) and Henri Poincaré (1908) began to reflect on and publicly discuss their creative processes.

Twentieth century to the present day[edit]

The insights of Poincaré and von Helmholtz were built on in early accounts of the creative process by pioneering theorists such as Graham Wallas[17] and Max Wertheimer. In his work Art of Thought, published in 1926, Wallas 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);
(v) verification (where the idea is consciously verified, elaborated, and then applied).

Wallas' model is often treated as four stages, with "intimation" seen as a sub-stage.

Wallas considered creativity to be a legacy of the evolutionary process, which allowed humans to quickly adapt to rapidly changing environments. Simonton[18] provides an updated perspective on this view in his book, Origins of genius: Darwinian perspectives on creativity.

In 1927, Alfred North Whitehead gave the Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh, later published as Process and Reality.[19] He is credited with having coined the term "creativity" to serve as the ultimate category of his metaphysical scheme: "Whitehead actually coined the term – our term, still the preferred currency of exchange among literature, science, and the arts. . . a term that quickly became so popular, so omnipresent, that its invention within living memory, and by Alfred North Whitehead of all people, quickly became occluded".[20]

The formal psychometric measurement of creativity, from the standpoint of orthodox psychological literature, is usually considered to have begun with J. P. Guilford's 1950 address to the American Psychological Association, which helped popularize the topic[21] and focus attention on a scientific approach to conceptualizing creativity. (It should be noted that the London School of Psychology had instigated psychometric studies of creativity as early as 1927 with the work of H. L. Hargreaves into the Faculty of Imagination,[22] but it did not have the same impact.) Statistical analysis led to the recognition of creativity (as measured) as a separate aspect of human cognition to IQ-type intelligence, into which it had previously been subsumed. Guilford's work suggested that above a threshold level of IQ, the relationship between creativity and classically measured intelligence broke down.[23]

"Four C" model[edit]

James C. Kaufman and Beghetto introduced a "four C" model of creativity; mini-c ("transformative learning" involving "personally meaningful interpretations of experiences, actions and insights"), little-c (everyday problem solving and creative expression), Pro-C (exhibited by people who are professionally or vocationally creative though not necessarily eminent) and Big-C (creativity considered great in the given field). This model was intended to help accommodate models and theories of creativity that stressed competence as an essential component and the historical transformation of a creative domain as the highest mark of creativity. It also, the authors argued, made a useful framework for analyzing creative processes in individuals.[24]

The contrast of terms "Big C" and "Little c" has been widely used. Kozbelt, Beghetto and Runco use a little-c/Big-C model to review major theories of creativity [23] Margaret Boden distinguishes between h-creativity (historical) and p-creativity (personal).[25]

Robinson[26] and Anna Craft[27] have focused on creativity in a general population, particularly with respect to education. Craft makes a similar distinction between "high" and "little c" creativity.[27] and cites Ken Robinson as referring to "high" and "democratic" creativity. Mihály Csíkszentmihályi[28] has defined creativity in terms of those individuals judged to have made significant creative, perhaps domain-changing contributions. Simonton has analysed the career trajectories of eminent creative people in order to map patterns and predictors of creative productivity.[29]

Theories of creative processes[edit]

There has been much empirical study in psychology and cognitive science of the processes through which creativity occurs. Interpretation of the results of these studies has led to several possible explanations of the sources and methods of creativity.


Incubation is a temporary break from creative problem solving that can result in insight.[30] 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[31] 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.[32] 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.[33]

Convergent and divergent thinking[edit]

J. P. Guilford[34] drew 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.[citation needed]

Creative cognition approach[edit]

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. Some evidence shows that when people use their imagination to develop new ideas, those ideas are heavily structured in predictable ways by the properties of existing categories and concepts.[35] Weisberg[36] argued, by contrast, that creativity only involves ordinary cognitive processes yielding extraordinary results.

The Explicit–Implicit Interaction (EII) theory[edit]

Helie and Sun[37] recently proposed a unified framework for understanding creativity in problem solving, namely the Explicit–Implicit Interaction (EII) theory of creativity. This new theory constitutes an attempt at providing a more unified explanation of relevant phenomena (in part by reinterpreting/integrating various fragmentary existing theories of incubation and insight). The EII theory relies mainly on five basic principles, namely 1) The co-existence of and the difference between explicit and implicit knowledge; 2) The simultaneous involvement of implicit and explicit processes in most tasks; 3) The redundant representation of explicit and implicit knowledge; 4) The integration of the results of explicit and implicit processing; and 5) The iterative (and possibly bidirectional) processing. A computational implementation of the theory was developed based on the CLARION cognitive architecture and used to simulate relevant human data. This work represents an initial step in the development of process-based theories of creativity encompassing incubation, insight, and various other related phenomena.

Conceptual blending[edit]

Main article: Conceptual blending

In The Act of Creation, Arthur Koestler introduced the concept of bisociation—that creativity arises as a result of the intersection of two quite different frames of reference.[38] This idea was later developed into conceptual blending. In the '90s, various approaches in cognitive science that dealt with metaphor, analogy and structure mapping have been converging, and a new integrative approach to the study of creativity in science, art and humor has emerged under the label conceptual blending.

Honing theory[edit]

Honing theory posits that creativity arises due to the self-organizing, self-mending nature of a worldview, and that it is by way of the creative process the individual hones (and re-hones) an integrated worldview. Honing theory places equal emphasis on the externally visible creative outcome and the internal cognitive restructuring brought about by the creative process. Indeed one factor that distinguishes it from other theories of creativity is that it focuses on not just restructuring as it pertains to the conception of the task, but as it pertains to the worldview as a whole. When faced with a creatively demanding task, there is an interaction between the conception of the task and the worldview. The conception of the task changes through interaction with the worldview, and the worldview changes through interaction with the task. This interaction is reiterated until the task is complete, at which point not only is the task conceived of differently, but the worldview is subtly or drastically transformed. Thus another distinguishing feature of honing theory is that the creative process reflects the natural tendency of a worldview to attempt to resolve dissonance and seek internal consistency amongst its components, whether they be ideas, attitudes, or bits of knowledge; it mends itself as does a body when it has been injured.

Yet another central, distinguishing feature of honing theory is the notion of a potentiality state.[39] Honing theory posits that creative thought proceeds not by searching through and randomly ‘mutating’ predefined possibilities, but by drawing upon associations that exist due to overlap in the distributed neural cell assemblies that participate in the encoding of experiences in memory. Midway through the creative process one may have made associations between the current task and previous experiences, but not yet disambiguated which aspects of those previous experiences are relevant to the current task. Thus the creative idea may feel ‘half-baked’. It is at that point that it can be said to be in a potentiality state, because how it will actualize depends on the different internally or externally generated contexts it interacts with.

Honing theory can account for many phenomena that are not readily explained by other theories of creativity. For example, creativity was commonly thought to be fostered by a supportive, nurturing, trustworthy environment conducive to self-actualization. However, research shows that creativity is actually associated with childhood adversity, which would stimulate honing. Honing theory also makes several predictions that differ from what would be predicted by other theories. For example, empirical support has been obtained using analogy problem solving experiments for the proposal that midway through the creative process one's mind is in a potentiality state. Other experiments show that different works by the same creator exhibit a recognizable style or 'voice', and that this same recognizable quality even comes through in different creative outlets. This is not predicted by theories of creativity that emphasize chance processes or the accumulation of expertise, but it is predicted by honing theory, according to which personal style reflects the creator's uniquely structured worldview. This theory has been developed by Liane Gabora.

Everyday imaginative thought[edit]

In everyday thought, people often spontaneously imagine alternatives to reality when they think "if only...".[40] Their counterfactual thinking is viewed as an example of everyday creative processes.[41] It has been proposed that the creation of counterfactual alternatives to reality depends on similar cognitive processes to rational thought.[42]


Creativity quotient[edit]

Several attempts have been made to develop a creativity quotient of an individual similar to the intelligence quotient (IQ), however these have been unsuccessful.[43]

In Malcolm Gladwell's 2008 book Outliers: The Story of Success,[44] there is mentioning of a "divergence test". As opposed to "convergence tests", where a test taker is asked to sort through a list of possibilities and converge on the right answer, a divergence test requires one to use imagination and take one's mind in as many different directions as possible. "With a divergence test, obviously there isn't a single right answer. What the test giver is looking for are the number and uniqueness of your responses. And what the test is measuring isn't analytical intelligence but something profoundly different -- something much closer to creativity. Divergence tests are every bit as challenging as convergence tests."

Psychometric approach[edit]

J. P. Guilford's group,[34] which pioneered the modern psychometric study of creativity, constructed several tests to measure creativity in 1967:

  • Plot Titles, where participants are given the plot of a story and asked to write original titles.
  • Quick Responses is a word-association test scored for uncommonness.
  • Figure Concepts, where participants were given simple drawings of objects and individuals and asked to find qualities or features that are common by two or more drawings; these were scored for uncommonness.
  • Unusual Uses is finding unusual uses for common everyday objects such as bricks.
  • Remote Associations, where participants are asked to find a word between two given words (e.g. Hand _____ Call)
  • Remote Consequences, where participants are asked to generate a list of consequences of unexpected events (e.g. loss of gravity)

Building on Guilford's work, Torrance[45] developed the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking in 1966.[46] They involved simple tests of divergent thinking and other problem-solving skills, which were scored on:

  • Fluency – The total number of interpretable, meaningful and relevant ideas generated in response to the stimulus.
  • Originality – The statistical rarity of the responses among the test subjects.
  • Elaboration – The amount of detail in the responses.

The Creativity Achievement Questionnaire, a self-report test that measures creative achievement across 10 domains, was described in 2005 and shown to be reliable and valid when compared to other measures of creativity and to independent evaluation of creative output.[47]

Such tests, sometimes called Divergent Thinking (DT) tests have been both supported[48] and criticized.[49]

Considerable progress has been made in automated scoring of Divergent Thinking tests using semantic approach. When compared to human raters, NLP techniques were shown to be reliable and valid in scoring the originality (when compared to human raters).[50][51] The reported computer programs were able to achieve a correlation of 0.60 and 0.72 respectively to human graders.

Semantic networks were also used to devise originality scores that yielded significant correlations with socio-personal measures.[52] Most recently, An NSF-funded[53] team of researchers led by James C. Kaufman and Mark A. Runco[54] combined expertise in creativity research, natural language processing, computational linguistics, and statistical data analysis to devise a scalable system for computerized automated testing (SparcIt Creativity Index Testing system). This system enabled automated scoring of DT tests that is reliable, objective, and scalable, thus addressing most of the issues of DT tests that had been found and reported.[49] The resultant computer system was able to achieve a correlation of 0.73 to human graders.[55]

Social-personality approach[edit]

Some researchers have taken a social-personality approach to the measurement of creativity. In these studies, personality traits such as independence of judgement, self-confidence, attraction to complexity, aesthetic orientation and risk-taking are used as measures of the creativity of individuals.[21] A meta-analysis by Gregory Feist showed that creative people tend to be "more open to new experiences, less conventional and less conscientious, more self-confident, self-accepting, driven, ambitious, dominant, hostile,and impulsive." Openness, conscientiousness, self-acceptance, hostility and impulsivity had the strongest effects of the traits listed.[56] Within the framework of the Big Five model of personality some consistent traits have emerged.[57] Openness to experience has been shown to be consistently related to a whole host of different assessments of creativity.[58] Among the other Big Five traits, research has demonstrated subtle differences between different domains of creativity. Compared to non-artists, artists tend to have higher levels of openness to experience and lower levels of conscientiousness, while scientists are more open to experience, conscientious, and higher in the confidence-dominance facets of extraversion compared to non-scientists.[56]


There has been debate in the psychological literature about whether intelligence (as measured by IQ) 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.[57]

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 happens to produce something novel, a view which Perkins has termed the "nothing special" hypothesis.[59]

An often cited model is what has come to be known as "the threshold hypothesis," proposed by Ellis Paul Torrance, which holds that a high degree of intelligence appears to be a necessary but not sufficient condition for high creativity.[34] That is, while there is a positive correlation between creativity and intelligence, this correlation disappears for IQs above a threshold of around 120. Such a model has found acceptance by many researchers, although it has not gone unchallenged.[60] A study in 1962 by Getzels and Jackson among high school students concluded that high IQ and high creativity tend to be mutually exclusive with a majority of the highest scoring students being either highly creative or highly intelligent, but not both. While this explains the threshold, the exact interaction between creativity and IQ remains unexplained.[61] A 2005 meta-Analysis found only small correlations between IQ and creativity tests and did not support the threshold theory.[62]

An alternative perspective, Renzulli's three-rings hypothesis, sees giftedness as based on both intelligence and creativity.

Many experts have suggested a relationship between associative memory and creativity.[63][64][65]


The neurobiology of creativity has been addressed[66] in the article "Creative Innovation: Possible Brain Mechanisms." The authors write that "creative innovation might require 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:

Thus, the frontal lobe appears to be the part of the cortex that is most important for creativity.

This article also explored the links between creativity and sleep, mood and addiction disorders, and depression.

In 2005, Alice Flaherty presented a three-factor model of the creative drive. Drawing from evidence in brain imaging, drug studies and lesion analysis, she described the creative drive as resulting from an interaction of the frontal lobes, the temporal lobes, and dopamine from the limbic system. The frontal lobes can be seen as responsible for idea generation, and the temporal lobes for idea editing and evaluation. Abnormalities in the frontal lobe (such as depression or anxiety) generally decrease creativity, while abnormalities in the temporal lobe often increase creativity. High activity in the temporal lobe typically inhibits activity in the frontal lobe, and vice versa. High dopamine levels increase general arousal and goal directed behaviors and reduce latent inhibition, and all three effects increase the drive to generate ideas.[67]

Working memory and the cerebellum[edit]

Vandervert[68] described how the brain's frontal lobes and the cognitive functions of the cerebellum collaborate to produce creativity and innovation. Vandervert's explanation rests on considerable evidence that all processes of working memory (responsible for processing all thought[69]) are adaptively modeled for increased efficiency by the cerebellum.[70] The cerebellum (consisting of 100 billion neurons, which is more than the entirety of the rest of the brain[71]) is also widely known to adaptively model all bodily movement for efficiency. The cerebellum's adaptive models of working memory processing are then fed back to especially frontal lobe working memory control processes[72] where creative and innovative thoughts arise.[73] (Apparently, creative insight or the "aha" experience is then triggered in the temporal lobe.[74])

According to Vandervert, the details of creative adaptation begin in "forward" cerebellar models which are anticipatory/exploratory controls for movement and thought. These cerebellar processing and control architectures have been termed Hierarchical Modular Selection and Identification for Control (HMOSAIC).[75] New, hierarchically arranged levels of the cerebellar control architecture (HMOSAIC) develop as mental mulling in working memory is extended over time. These new levels of the control architecture are fed forward to the frontal lobes. Since the cerebellum adaptively models all movement and all levels of thought and emotion,[76] Vandervert's approach helps explain creativity and innovation in sports, art, music, the design of video games, technology, mathematics, the child prodigy, and thought in general.

Essentially, Vandervert has argued that when a person is confronted with a challenging new situation, visual-spatial working memory and speech-related working memory are decomposed and re-composed (fractionated) by the cerebellum and then blended in the cerebral cortex in an attempt to deal with the new situation. With repeated attempts to deal with challenging situations, the cerebro-cerebellar blending process continues to optimize the efficiency of how working memory deals with the situation or problem.[77] Most recently, he has argued that this is the same process (only involving visual-spatial working memory and pre-language vocalization) that led to the evolution of language in humans.[78] Vandervert and Vandervert-Weathers have pointed out that this blending process, because it continuously optimizes efficiencies, constantly improves prototyping attempts toward the invention or innovation of new ideas, music, art, or technology.[79] Prototyping, they argue, not only produces new products, it trains the cerebro-cerebellar pathways involved to become more efficient at prototyping itself. Further, Vandervert and Vandervert-Weathers believe that this repetitive "mental prototyping" or mental rehearsal involving the cerebellum and the cerebral cortex explains the success of the self-driven, individualized patterning of repetitions initiated by the teaching methods of the Khan Academy. The model proposed by Vandervert has however received incisive critique from several authors.[80][81]

REM sleep[edit]

Creativity involves the forming of associative elements into new combinations that are useful or meet some requirement. Sleep aids this process.[82] REM rather than NREM sleep appears to be responsible.[83][84] This has been suggested to be due to changes in cholinergic and noradrenergic neuromodulation that occurs during REM sleep.[83] During this period of sleep, high levels of acetylcholine in the hippocampus suppress feedback from the hippocampus to the neocortex, and lower levels of acetylcholine and norepinephrine in the neocortex encourage the spread of associational activity within neocortical areas without control from the hippocampus.[85] This is in contrast to waking consciousness, where higher levels of norepinephrine and acetylcholine inhibit recurrent connections in the neocortex. It is proposed that REM sleep adds creativity by allowing "neocortical structures to reorganize associative hierarchies, in which information from the hippocampus would be reinterpreted in relation to previous semantic representations or nodes."[83]


Some theories suggest that creativity may be particularly susceptible to affective influence. As noted in voting behavior the term "affect" in this context can refer to liking or disliking key aspects of the subject in question. This work largely follows from findings in psychology regarding the ways in which affective states are involved in human judgment and decision-making.[86]

Positive affect relations[edit]

According to Alice Isen, positive affect has three primary effects on cognitive activity:

  1. Positive affect makes additional cognitive material available for processing, increasing the number of cognitive elements available for association;
  2. Positive affect leads to defocused attention and a more complex cognitive context, increasing the breadth of those elements that are treated as relevant to the problem;
  3. Positive affect increases cognitive flexibility, increasing the probability that diverse cognitive elements will in fact become associated. Together, these processes lead positive affect to have a positive influence on creativity.

Barbara Fredrickson in her broaden-and-build model suggests that positive emotions such as joy and love broaden a person's available repertoire of cognitions and actions, thus enhancing creativity.

According to these researchers, positive emotions increase the number of cognitive elements available for association (attention scope) and the number of elements that are relevant to the problem (cognitive scope).

Various meta-analyses, such as Baas et al. (2008) of 66 studies about creativity and affect support the link between creativity and positive affect[87][88]

Formal theory[edit]

Jürgen Schmidhuber's formal theory of creativity[89][90] postulates that creativity, curiosity and interestingness are by-products of a simple computational principle for measuring and optimizing learning progress. Consider an agent able to manipulate its environment and thus its own sensory inputs. The agent can use a black box optimization method such as reinforcement learning to learn (through informed trial and error) sequences of actions that maximize the expected sum of its future reward signals. There are extrinsic reward signals for achieving externally given goals, such as finding food when hungry. But Schmidhuber's objective function to be maximized also includes an additional, intrinsic term to model "wow-effects." This non-standard term motivates purely creative behavior of the agent even when there are no external goals. A wow-effect is formally defined as follows. As the agent is creating and predicting and encoding the continually growing history of actions and sensory inputs, it keeps improving the predictor or encoder, which can be implemented as an artificial neural network or some other machine learning device that can exploit regularities in the data to improve its performance over time. The improvements can be measured precisely, by computing the difference in computational costs (storage size, number of required synapses, errors, time) needed to encode new observations before and after learning. This difference depends on the encoder's present subjective knowledge, which changes over time, but the theory formally takes this into account. The cost difference measures the strength of the present "wow-effect" due to sudden improvements in data compression or computational speed. It becomes an intrinsic reward signal for the action selector. The objective function thus motivates the action optimizer to create action sequences causing more wow-effects. Irregular, random data (or noise) do not permit any wow-effects or learning progress, and thus are "boring" by nature (providing no reward). Already known and predictable regularities also are boring. Temporarily interesting are only the initially unknown, novel, regular patterns in both actions and observations. This motivates the agent to perform continual, open-ended, active, creative exploration.

According to Schmidhuber, his objective function explains the activities of scientists, artists and comedians.[91][92] For example, physicists are motivated to create experiments leading to observations obeying previously unpublished physical laws permitting better data compression. Likewise, composers receive intrinsic reward for creating non-arbitrary melodies with unexpected but regular harmonies that permit wow-effects through data compression improvements. Similarly, a comedian gets intrinsic reward for "inventing a novel joke with an unexpected punch line, related to the beginning of the story in an initially unexpected but quickly learnable way that also allows for better compression of the perceived data."[93] Schmidhuber argues that that ongoing computer hardware advances will greatly scale up rudimentary artificial scientists and artists[clarification needed] based on simple implementations of the basic principle since 1990.[94] He used the theory to create low-complexity art[95] and an attractive human face.[96]

Mental health[edit]

A study by psychologist J. Philippe Rushton found creativity to correlate with intelligence and psychoticism.[97] Another study found creativity to be greater in schizotypal than in either normal or 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.[98] This study hypothesizes that such 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. Three recent studies by Mark Batey and Adrian Furnham have demonstrated the relationships between schizotypal[99][100] and hypomanic personality [101] and several different measures of creativity.

Particularly strong links have been identified between creativity and mood disorders, particularly manic-depressive disorder (a.k.a. bipolar disorder) and depressive disorder (a.k.a. unipolar disorder). In Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament, Kay Redfield Jamison summarizes studies of mood-disorder rates in writers, poets and artists. She also explores research that identifies mood disorders in such famous writers and artists as Ernest Hemingway (who shot himself after electroconvulsive treatment), Virginia Woolf (who drowned herself when she felt a depressive episode coming on), composer Robert Schumann (who died in a mental institution), and even the famed visual artist Michelangelo.

A study looking at 300,000 persons with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or unipolar depression, and their relatives, found overrepresentation in creative professions for those with bipolar disorder as well as for undiagnosed siblings of those with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. There was no overall overrepresenation, but overrepresentation for artistic occupations, among those diagnosed with schizophrenia. There was no association for those with unipolar depression or their relatives. [102]

Another study involving more than one million people, conducted by Swedish researchers at the Karolinska Institute, reported a number of correlations between creative occupations and mental illnesses. Writers had a higher risk of anxiety and bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, unipolar depression, and substance abuse, and were almost twice as likely as the general population to kill themselves. Dancers and photographers were also more likely to have bipolar disorder.[103]

However, as a group, those in the creative professions were no more likely to suffer from psychiatric disorders than other people, although they were more likely to have a close relative with a disorder, including anorexia and, to some extent, autism, the Journal of Psychiatric Research reports.[103]

According to psychologist Robert Epstein, PhD, creativity can be obstructed through stress.[104]

Some types of creativity according to R.J. Sternberg[edit]

An article by R. J. Sternberg in the Creativity Research Journal reviewed the "investment" theory of creativity as well as the "propulsion" theory of creative contribution, suggesting that there are eight types of creative contribution; replication — confirming that the given field is in the correct place — redefinition — the attempt to redefine where the field is and how it is viewed — forward incrementation — a creative contribution that moves the field forward in the direction in which it is already moving — advance forward movement — which advances the field past the point where others are ready for it to go — redirection — which moves the field in a new, different direction — redirection from a point in the past — which moves the field back to a previous point to advance in a different direction — starting over/ re-initiation — moving the field to a different starting point — and integration — combining two or more diverse ways of thinking about the field into a single way of thinking.[105]

In various contexts[edit]

An electric wire reel reused as a center table in a Rio de Janeiro decoration fair. The creativity of this designer in reusing this waste was used with good effects to the environment.

Creativity has been studied from a variety of perspectives and is important in numerous contexts. Most of these approaches are undisciplinary, and it is therefore difficult to form a coherent overall view.[21] The following sections examine some of the areas in which creativity is seen as being important.

Creativity profiles[edit]

Creativity can be expresses in a number of different forms, depending on the unique people and environments it exists. A number of different theorists have suggested models of the creative person. One model suggests that there are kinds to produce growth, innovation, speed, etc. These are referred to as the four "Creativity Profiles" that can help achieve such goals.[106]

(i) Incubate (Long-term Development)
(ii) Imagine (Breakthrough Ideas)
(iii) Improve (Incremental Adjustments)
(iv) Invest (Short-term Goals)

Research by Dr Mark Batey of the Psychometrics at Work Research Group at Manchester Business School has suggested that the creative profile can be explained by four primary creativity traits with narrow facets within each

(i) "Idea Generation" (Fluency, Originality, Incubation and Illumination)
(ii) "Personality" (Curiosity and Tolerance for Ambiguity)
(iii) "Motivation" (Intrinsic, Extrinsic and Achievement)
(iv) "Confidence" (Producing, Sharing and Implementing)

This model was developed in a sample of 1000 working adults using the statistical techniques of Exploratory Factor Analysis followed by Confirmatory Factor Analysis by Structural Equation Modelling.[107]

An important aspect of the creativity profiling approach is to account for the tension between predicting the creative profile of an individual, as characterised by the psychometric approach, and the evidence that team creativity is founded on diversity and difference.[108]

One characteristic of creative people, as measured by some psychologists, is what is called divergent production. divergent production is the ability of a person to generate a diverse assortment, yet an appropriate amount of responses to a given situation.[109] One way of measuring divergent production is by administering the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking.[110] The Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking assesses the diversity, quantity, and appropriateness of participants responses to a variety of open-ended questions.

Other researchers of creativity see the difference in creative people as a cognitive process of dedication to problem solving and developing expertise in the field of their creative expression. Hard working people study the work of people before them and within their current area, become experts in their fields, and then have the ability to add to and build upon previous information in innovative and creative ways. In a study of projects by design students, students who had more knowledge on their subject on average had greater creativity within their projects.[111]

The aspect of motivation within a person's personality may predict creativity levels in the person. Motivation stems from two different sources, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is an internal drive within a person to participate or invest as a result of personal interest, desires, hopes, goals, etc. Extrinsic motivation is a drive from outside of a person and might take the form of payment, rewards, fame, approval from others, etc. Although extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation can both increase creativity in certain cases, strictly extrinsic motivation often impedes creativity in people.[112]

From a personality-traits perspective, there are a number of traits that are associated with creativity in people.[113] Creative people tend to be more open to new experiences, are more self-confident, are more ambitious, self-accepting, impulsive, driven, dominant, and hostile, compared to people with less creativity.

From an evolutionary perspective, creativity may be a result of the outcome of years of generating ideas. As ideas are continuously generated, the need to evolve produces a need for new ideas and developments. As a result, people have been creating and developing new, innovative, and creative ideas to build our progress as a society.[114]

In studying exceptionally creative people in history, some common traits in lifestyle and environment are often found. Creative people in history usually had supportive parents, but rigid and non-nurturing. Most had an interest in their field at an early age, and most had a highly supportive and skilled mentor in their field of interest. Often the field they chose was relatively uncharted, allowing for their creativity to be expressed more in a field with less previous information. Most exceptionally creative people devoted almost all of their time and energy into their craft, and after about a decade had a creative breakthrough of fame. Their lives were marked with extreme dedication and a cycle of hard-work and breakthroughs as a result of their determination [115]

Another theory of creative people is the investment theory of creativity. This approach suggest that there are many individual and environmental factors that must exist in precise ways for extremely high levels of creativity opposed to average levels of creativity. In the investment sense, a person with their particular characteristics in their particular environment may see an opportunity to devote their time and energy into something that has been overlooked by others. The creative person develops an undervalued or under-recognised idea to the point that it is established as a new and creative idea. Just like in the financial world, some investments are worth the buy in, while others are less productive and do not build to the extent that the investor expected. This investment theory of creativity views creativity in a unique perspective compared to others, by asserting that creativity might rely to some extent on the right investment of effort being added to a field at the right time in the right way.[116]

In diverse cultures[edit]

Creativity is viewed differently in different countries.[117] For example, cross-cultural research centred on Hong Kong found that Westerners view creativity more in terms of the individual attributes of a creative person, such as their aesthetic taste, while Chinese people view creativity more in terms of the social influence of creative people e.g. what they can contribute to society.[118] Mpofu et al. surveyed 28 African languages and found that 27 had no word which directly translated to 'creativity' (the exception being Arabic).[119] The principle of linguistic relativity, i.e. that language can affect thought, suggests that the lack of an equivalent word for 'creativity' may affect the views of creativity among speakers of such languages. However, more research would be needed to establish this, and there is certainly no suggestion that this linguistic difference makes people any less (or more) creative; Africa has a rich heritage of creative pursuits such as music, art, and storytelling. Nevertheless, it is true that there has been very little research on creativity in Africa,[120] and there has also been very little research on creativity in Latin America.[121] Creativity has been more thoroughly researched in the northern hemisphere, but here again there are cultural differences, even between countries or groups of countries in close proximity. For example, in Scandinavian countries, creativity is seen as an individual attitude which helps in coping with life's challenges,[122] while in Germany, creativity is seen more as a process that can be applied to help solve problems.[123]

In art and literature[edit]

Henry Moore's Reclining Figure

Most people associate creativity with the fields of art and literature. In these fields, originality is considered to be a sufficient condition for creativity, unlike other fields where both originality and appropriateness are necessary.[124]

Within the different modes of artistic expression, one can postulate a continuum extending from "interpretation" to "innovation". Established artistic movements and genres pull practitioners to the "interpretation" end of the scale, whereas original thinkers strive towards the "innovation" pole. Note that we conventionally expect some "creative" people (dancers, actors, orchestral members, etc.) to perform (interpret) while allowing others (writers, painters, composers, etc.) more freedom to express the new and the different.

Contrast alternative theories, for example:

  • artistic inspiration, which provides the transmission of visions from divine sources such as the Muses; a taste of the Divine.[125] Compare with invention.
  • artistic evolution, which stresses obeying established ("classical") rules and imitating or appropriating to produce subtly different but unshockingly understandable work. Compare with crafts.
  • artistic conversation, as in Surrealism, which stresses the depth of communication when the creative product is the language.

In the art practice and theory of Davor Dzalto, human creativity is taken as a basic feature of both the personal existence of human being and art production. For this thinker, creativity is a basic cultural and anthropological category, since it enables human manifestation in the world as a "real presence" in contrast to the progressive "virtualization" of the world.

Psychological examples from science and mathematics[edit]

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."[126]

The same has been reported in literature by many others, such as Denis Brian,[127] G. H. Hardy,[128] Walter Heitler,[129] B. L. van der Waerden,[130] and Harold Ruegg.[131]

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."[127]

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:[132]

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."[133] As cited by von Franz,[134] 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."[135]

Creative industries and services[edit]

Today, creativity forms the core activity of a growing section of the global economy—the so-called "creative industries"—capitalistically generating (generally non-tangible) wealth through the creation and exploitation of intellectual property or through the provision of creative services. The Creative Industries Mapping Document 2001 provides an overview of the creative industries in the UK. The creative professional workforce is becoming a more integral part of industrialized nations' economies.

Creative professions include writing, art, design, theater, television, radio, motion pictures, related crafts, as well as marketing, strategy, some aspects of scientific research and development, product development, some types of teaching and curriculum design, and more. Since many creative professionals (actors and writers, for example) are also employed in secondary professions, estimates of creative professionals are often inaccurate. By some estimates, approximately 10 million US workers are creative professionals; depending upon the depth and breadth of the definition, this estimate may be double.

In other professions[edit]

Isaac Newton's law of gravity is popularly attributed to a creative leap he experienced when observing a falling apple.

Creativity is also seen as being increasingly important in a variety of other professions. Architecture and industrial design are the fields most often associated with creativity, and more generally the fields of design and design research. These fields explicitly value creativity, and journals such as Design Studies have published many studies on creativity and creative problem solving.[136]

Fields such as science and engineering have, by contrast, experienced a less explicit (but arguably no less important) relation to creativity. Simonton[18] shows how some of the major scientific advances of the 20th century can be attributed to the creativity of individuals. This ability will also be seen as increasingly important for engineers in years to come.[137]

Accounting has also been associated with creativity with the popular euphemism creative accounting. Although this term often implies unethical practices, Amabile[124] has suggested that even this profession can benefit from the (ethical) application of creative thinking.

In a recent global survey of approximately 1600 CEO's, the leadership trait that was considered to be most crucial for success was creativity.[138] This suggests that the world of business is beginning to accept that creativity is of value in a diversity of industries, rather than being simply the preserve of the creative industries. For instance, the civil service (opularly derided as wholly opposite to the creative), has benefitted from employing creative writers, from John Milton, to Anthony Trollope, to 'Flann O'Brien', who are capable of analysing the workings of their own institutions.[139]

In organizations[edit]

Training meeting in an eco-design stainless steel company in Brazil. The leaders among other things wish to cheer and encourage the workers in order to achieve a higher level of creativity.

It has been the topic of various research studies to establish that organizational effectiveness depends on the creativity of the workforce to a large extent. For any given organization, measures of effectiveness vary, depending upon its mission, environmental context, nature of work, the product or service it produces, and customer demands. Thus, the first step in evaluating organizational effectiveness is to understand the organization itself — how it functions, how it is structured, and what it emphasizes.

Amabile[124] argued that to enhance creativity in business, three components were needed:

  • Expertise (technical, procedural and intellectual knowledge),
  • Creative thinking skills (how flexibly and imaginatively people approach problems),
  • and Motivation (especially intrinsic motivation).

There are two types of motivation:

Six managerial practices to encourage motivation are:

  • Challenge – matching people with the right assignments;
  • Freedom – giving people autonomy choosing means to achieve goals;
  • Resources – such as time, money, space etc. There must be balance fit among resources and people;
  • Work group features – diverse, supportive teams, where members share the excitement, willingness to help and recognize each other's talents;
  • Supervisory encouragement – recognitions, cheering, praising;
  • Organizational support – value emphasis, information sharing, collaboration.

Nonaka, who examined several successful Japanese companies, similarly saw creativity and knowledge creation as being important to the success of organizations.[140] In particular, he emphasized the role that tacit knowledge has to play in the creative process.

In business, originality is not enough. The idea must also be appropriate—useful and actionable.[141][142] Creative competitive intelligence is a new solution to solve this problem. According to Reijo Siltala it links creativity to innovation process and competitive intelligence to creative workers.

Creativity can be encouraged in people and professionals and in the workplace. It is essential for innovation, and is a factor affecting economic growth and businesses. In 2013 the sociologist Silvia Leal Martín, using the Innova 3DX method, suggested measuring the various parameters that encourage creativity and innovation: corporate culture, work environment, leadership and management, creativity, self-esteem and optimism, locus of control and learning orientation, motivation and fear.[143]

Economic views of creativity[edit]

Economic approaches to creativity have focussed on three aspects — the impact of creativity on economic growth, methods of modelling markets for creativity, and the maximisation of economic creativity (innovation).

In the early 20th century, Joseph Schumpeter introduced the economic theory of creative destruction, to describe the way in which old ways of doing things are endogenously destroyed and replaced by the new. Some economists (such as Paul Romer) view creativity as an important element in the recombination of elements to produce new technologies and products and, consequently, economic growth. Creativity leads to capital, and creative products are protected by intellectual property laws.

Mark A. Runco and Daniel Rubenson have tried to describe a "psychoeconomic" model of creativity.[144] In such a model, creativity is the product of endowments and active investments in creativity; the costs and benefits of bringing creative activity to market determine the supply of creativity. Such an approach has been criticised for its view of creativity consumption as always having positive utility, and for the way it analyses the value of future innovations.[145]

The creative class is seen by some to be an important driver of modern economies. In his 2002 book, The Rise of the Creative Class, economist Richard Florida popularized the notion that regions with "3 T's of economic development: Technology, Talent and Tolerance" also have high concentrations of creative professionals and tend to have a higher level of economic development.

The creative industries in Europe — including the audiovisual sector — make a significant contribution to the EU economy, creating about 3% of EU GDP — corresponding to an annual market value of €500 billion — and employing about 6 million people. In addition, the sector plays a crucial role in fostering innovation, in particular for devices and networks.[146] The EU records the second highest TV viewing figures globally, producing more films than any other region in the world. In that respect, the newly proposed 'Creative Europe' programme will help preserve cultural heritage while increasing the circulation of creative works inside and outside the EU.[147] The programme will play a consequential role in stimulating cross border co-operation, promoting peer learning and making these sectors more professional. The Commission will then propose a financial instrument run by the European Investment Bank to provide debt and equity finance for cultural and creative industries. The role of the non-state actors within the governance regarding Medias will not be neglected anymore due to a holistic approach.

Social network view of creativity[edit]

Creativity research has long been polarized between the ‘romantic’ view that major creative achievements are sparked by imaginative and uniquely gifted individuals at the margin of an intellectual field. Although this remains the dominant approach when examining individual creativity, an increasingly large number of studies have stressed the importance of also looking at social factors. Following this line of thought and drawing more explicitly from research by sociologists and sociopsychologists, organizational scholars have increasingly recognized the importance of the network side of individual creativity.[148]

The key idea of this perspective is that a deeper understanding of how creative outputs are generated and become accepted can be achieved only by placing the individual within a network of interpersonal relationships. The influence of the social context in which individuals are embedded determines the range of information and opportunities available to them during the creative process. Several studies have begun to expose the network mechanisms that underlie the genesis and legitimacy of creative work.[149]

Fostering creativity[edit]

Main article: Creativity techniques

Daniel Pink, in his 2005 book A Whole New Mind, repeating arguments posed throughout the 20th century, argues that we are entering a new age where creativity is becoming increasingly important. In this conceptual age, we will need to foster and encourage right-directed thinking (representing creativity and emotion) over left-directed thinking (representing logical, analytical thought). However, this simplification of 'right' versus 'left' brain thinking is not supported by the research data.[150]

Nickerson[151] provides a summary of the various creativity techniques that have been proposed. These include approaches that have been developed by both academia and industry:

  1. Establishing purpose and intention
  2. Building basic skills
  3. Encouraging acquisitions of domain-specific knowledge
  4. Stimulating and rewarding curiosity and exploration
  5. Building motivation, especially internal motivation
  6. Encouraging confidence and a willingness to take risks
  7. Focusing on mastery and self-competition
  8. Promoting supportable beliefs about creativity
  9. Providing opportunities for choice and discovery
  10. Developing self-management (metacognitive skills)
  11. Teaching techniques and strategies for facilitating creative performance
  12. Providing balance

Some see the conventional system of schooling as "stifling" of creativity and attempt (particularly in the pre-school/kindergarten and early school years) to provide a creativity-friendly, rich, imagination-fostering environment for young children.[151][152][153] Researchers have seen this as important because technology is advancing our society at an unprecedented rate and creative problem solving will be needed to cope with these challenges as they arise.[153] In addition to helping with problem solving, creativity also helps students identify problems where others have failed to do so.[151][152][154] See the Waldorf School as an example of an education program that promotes creative thought.

Promoting intrinsic motivation and problem solving are two areas where educators can foster creativity in students. Students are more creative when they see a task as intrinsically motivating, valued for its own sake.[152][153][155][156] To promote creative thinking educators need to identify what motivates their students and structure teaching around it. Providing students with a choice of activities to complete allows them to become more intrinsically motivated and therefore creative in completing the tasks.[151][157]

Teaching students to solve problems that do not have well defined answers is another way to foster their creativity. This is accomplished by allowing students to explore problems and redefine them, possibly drawing on knowledge that at first may seem unrelated to the problem in order to solve it.[151][152][153][155]

Several different researchers have proposed methods of increasing the creativity of an individual. Such ideas range from the psychological-cognitive, such as Osborn-Parnes Creative Problem Solving Process, Synectics, Science-based creative thinking, Purdue Creative Thinking Program, and Edward de Bono's lateral thinking; to the highly structured, such as TRIZ (the Theory of Inventive Problem-Solving) and its variant Algorithm of Inventive Problem Solving (developed by the Russian scientist Genrich Altshuller), and Computer-Aided Morphological analysis.

Understanding and enhancing the creative process with new technologies[edit]

A simple but accurate review on this new Human-Computer Interactions (HCI) angle for promoting creativity has been written by Todd Lubart, an invitation full of creative ideas to develop further this new field.

Groupware and other Computer Supported Collaborative Work (CSCW) platforms are now the stage of Network Creativity on the web or on other private networks. These tools have made more obvious the existence of a more connective, cooperative and collective nature of creativity rather than the prevailing individual one. Creativity Research on Global Virtual Teams is showing that the creative process is affected by the national identities, cognitive and conative profiles, anonymous interactions at times and many other factors affecting the teams members, depending on the early or later stages of the cooperative creative process. They are also showing how NGO's cross-cultural virtual team's innovation in Africa would also benefit from the pooling of best global practices online. Such tools enhancing cooperative creativity may have a great impact on society and as such should be tested while they are built following the Motto: "Build the Camera while shooting the film". Some European FP7 scientific programs like Paradiso are answering a need for advanced experimentally driven research including large-scale experimentation test-beds to discover the technical, societal and economic implications of such groupware and collaborative tools to the Internet.

On the other hand, creativity research may one day be pooled with a computable metalanguage like IEML from the University of Ottawa Collective Intelligence Chair, Pierre Levy. It might be a good tool to provide an interdisciplinary definition and a rather unified theory of creativity. The creative processes being highly fuzzy, the programming of cooperative tools for creativity and innovation should be adaptive and flexible. Empirical Modelling seems to be a good choice for Humanities Computing.

The Creativity and Cognition conference series, sponsored by the ACM and running since 1993, has been an important venue for publishing research on the intersection between technology and creativity. The conference now runs biennially, next taking place in 2011.[dated info]

Social attitudes[edit]

Although the benefits of creativity to society as a whole have been noted,[158] social attitudes about this topic remain divided. The wealth of literature regarding the development of creativity[159] and the profusion of creativity techniques indicate wide acceptance, at least among academics, that creativity is desirable.

There is, however, a dark side to creativity, in that it represents a "quest for a radical autonomy apart from the constraints of social responsibility".[160] In other words, by encouraging creativity we are encouraging a departure from society's existing norms and values. Expectation of conformity runs contrary to the spirit of creativity. Ken Robinson argues that the current education system is "educating people out of their creativity". [161][162]

Nevertheless, employers are increasingly valuing creative skills. A report by the Business Council of Australia, for example, has called for a higher level of creativity in graduates.[163] The ability to "think outside the box" is highly sought after. However, the above-mentioned paradox may well imply that firms pay lip service to thinking outside the box while maintaining traditional, hierarchical organization structures in which individual creativity is condemned.

See also[edit]


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