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Rethinking creativity across the life span
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Rethinking creativity across the life span


A constructivist perspective on the creative thinking process and associated cognitive theories throughout the lifespan. Challenging the idea that children are more creative.

A constructivist perspective on the creative thinking process and associated cognitive theories throughout the lifespan. Challenging the idea that children are more creative.

Published in Education , Technology
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  • There are many definitions of creativity. The most prevalent and longstanding is that which is both novel and valuable. Among all the definitions offered by multiple theorists with a variety of lens, I settled on this one (found on the website: primarily because of its overarching reach, which includes the person, the process and then environment.
  • Creativity as a cognitive process happens in two primary ways Accidentally – as a result of discovery – an awareness that comes without intention (i.e. something new is created without specific intention)Deliberately (as specified in the Osborne-Parnes model of CPS –Creative Problem Solving) – marked by stages in which the individual or group seeks to create something new.
  • I once heard a well known (and pretty good looking) neuroscientist, David Eagleman, say we no longer need to have the Nature/Nurture debate because the debate is over, we have our answer, “It’s both”. Nonetheless, for many “creativity” is still considered an individual trait that exists within and may contribute to the development of culture. I would argue that this is a misconception that is born out of the psychological construct of creativity as something that we can measure in a person.
  • These misconceptions, which were understood as “truth” until the mid 1990’s are as follows. Limited to a fewExisting within the domain of artistic (or sometimes scientific)Declines with ageAssociated with uniquenessThen research turned toward the intersection between the person and the environment.
  • Some basic data – essentially “kids begin creative” and “environment” effects the degree to which “creativity” may diminish or expand.
  • Robinson’s perspective is consistent with this perspectiveChildren’s creativity is ACCIDENTALAdult creativity is generally more DELIBERATE and MORE COMPLEX
  • Creativity can only be CO-CREATED!
  • Piaget actually takes a different view – from the perspective of intellectual development, the interaction between the self and the environment produces a progression within the span of one’s life to become creative
  • Each aspect of interacting cognitive processes from Piaget’s point of view is part of the creative process by which human beings create ideas, beliefs, products, and processes. But he stopped at the Formal Operations Stage- Leaving Abstract thought to be the broad domain of adulthood.
  • Michael Commons in 1984 began to consider greater complexity: Systematic-Construct multivariate systems and matricesCoordinates more than one variable as input; consider relationships in contexts. Events and concepts situated in a multivariate context; systems are formed out of relations; systems: legal, societal, corporate, economic, nationalMetasystematic-Construct multi-systems and metasystems out of disparate systems Create metasystems out of systems; compare systems and perspectives; name properties of systems: e.g. homomorphic, isomorphic, complete, consistent (such as tested by consistency proofs), commensurableMetasystems and supersystems are formed out of systems of relationships Paradigmatic - Fit metasystems together to form new paradigms Synthesize metasystems Paradigms are formed out of multiple metasystemsCross-paradigmatic - Fit paradigms together to form new fields Form new fields by crossing paradigms New fields are formed out of multiple paradigms
  • Preconventional Obedience and Punishment Individualism and ExchangeConventional Interpersonal Relationships Maintaining Social OrderPost Conventional Social Contracts and Individual Rights Universal Principles
  • Creativity from this perspective is both ACCIDENTAL and DELIBERATE – It’s a reciprocal interaction of bothIf we are to look at creativity through the lens of human development we need to take into account the INDIVIDUAL & THE SYSTEM IN WHICH THEY EXIST. Creativity cannot be fully understood through an individual lens. Given that creativity is relative novelty or difference, then it must involve something related to change. The QUALITY AND TYPE OF CREATIVITY MUST CHANGE AS ONE’S LIFE PROGRESSES.
  • Link between emotion and thought – anxiety can produce creative circumstances Zone of Proximal Development-Through which a less skilled person learns in collaboration with more skilled individuals.“past acts current experiences and future plans expand and mobilize the resources of creative individuals”“Creativity forms a lifelong zone of proximal development”“creativity creates the self as well as external artifacts”
  • Our notions of what any term means, what it includes and what it does not include, do not exist “out there” in the world, but only in and through the social institutions that give it meaning with a culture. Gergen suggests that “This process also introduces the possibility of change: what ‘justice’ is and what it means shifts from one generation to the next.
  • CONVENTIONS ARE ALWAYS CHANGING - Creativity within the context of Human Development is bound by our reality as it exists. It also has the potential for change and this in and of itself is creativity. But creativity cannot solely exist on an individual. From a systemic perspective, individuals do create, with a context in which there is ongoing co-creation. Adults learn from children. APPLE


  • 1. Rethinking Creativity Across the Life Span A Psychosocial Constructivist Perspective Jill C. Morris, Ph.D. 8th Biennial Meeting Society for the Study of Human Development Fort Lauderdale, FL November 3, 2013
  • 2. Creativity Creativity is the bringing into being something which did not exist before, either as a product, process or a thought.  Invent something which has never existed  Invent something which exists elsewhere, but you are not aware of  Invent a new process for doing something  Reapply an existing process or product into a new or different market  Develop a new way of looking at something (i.e. bringing a new idea into existence)  Change the way someone else looks at something
  • 3. Creative Thinking Process Accidental Deliberate
  • 4. Nature/Nurture? Individual People who experience the world in novel and original ways. These are individuals whose perceptions are fresh, whose judgments are insightful, who may make important discoveries that only they know about. (paraphrased from “Flow” -Csikszentmihalyi) Systemic “Creativity is observable and public only insofar as it ‘leaves a trace in the cultural matrix’ . . . Systemic definition of creativity [is a ] jointly constituted or coconstructed in a set of relations among three elements: domain, field and person” (Csikszentmihalyi quoted by Atwill & Lauer, p. 73)
  • 5. Some common misconceptions  Only limited to a few  Exists solely in the domain of the “artistic”  Declines seriously with age  Associated with uniqueness or innovation
  • 6.  Environmental influences may explain in part why childhood creativity seems to be a poor predictor of adult creativity (Albert 1996).  Although most young children are very creative, it is estimated that creativity diminishes by 40% between the ages of 5 and 7 (Grupas 1990; McCormick and Plugge 1997).  At these ages, formal schooling begins, and there is some agreement that education inhibits the transformation of early talent into adult creativity (Albert 1996; Amabile 1996).  It may be that schooling and/or stage of cognitive development at that age emphasizes logical rather than divergent thinking, or that schools (and families) value conventional behavior, well-defined problems, and good grades (Albert 1996) or develop skills relevant to creative performance (Amabile 1996). Source: Sandra Kerka, 1999 (ERIC Clearinghouse)
  • 7. Sir Ken Robinson TED (2006)
  • 8. In what ways does the interaction of the individual and environment impact creativity throughout one’s life span?
  • 9. Emergence Jean Piaget “The principle goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done men who are creative, inventive and discoverers.” – Jean Piaget
  • 10. Assimilation involves the incorporation of new events into preexisting cognitive structures. Accommodation means existing structures change to accommodate to the new information. This dual process, assimilationaccommodation, enables the child to form schema. Equilibration involves the person striking a balance between himself and the environment, between assimilation and accommodation. When a child experiences a new disequilibrium event, sets in until he is able to assimilate and accommodate the new information and thus attain equilibrium.
  • 11. Beyond Formal Operations Commons & Richards  Systematic  Metasystematic  Paradigmatic  Cross-Paradigmatic
  • 12. Heinz, Health Care & Creativity
  • 13. “The creative person is an evolving system…An evolving system . . . displays . . . at every point in its history, multicausal and reciprocally interactive relationships both among the internal elements of the system and between the organism and its external milieu.” (Howard Gruber)
  • 14. Dialectic of Development and Creativity Vygotsky
  • 15. Creativity, Language and the Co-construction of Meaning Kenneth Gergen “When we say something is socially constructed, we are focusing on its dependence on contingent variables of our social selves rather than any inherent quality that it possesses itself” “The social construction of reality is an ongoing, dynamic process that is (and must be) reproduced by people acting on their interpretations and their knowledge of it . . .[and] must constantly be maintained and re-affirmed in order to persist.”
  • 16. When worlds of meaning intersect, creative outcomes may occur. New forms of relating, new realities, and new possibilities may all emerge. When worlds of meaning conflict, they may lead to alienation and aggression, thus undermining relations and their creative potential. Through creative care for relationships, the destructive potentials of conflict may be reduced, or transformed. -Kenneth Gergen