A Brief Review of Creativity
Johanna E. Dickhut
Rochester Institute of Technology
In this report, creativity is explored and defined in regards to novelty and
appropriateness, and the thought mechanisms behind creativity are investigated.
Personality traits of psychoticism and intelligence are discussed in regards to creativity,
and intelligence is thought to be the main characteristic for creativity. Future possibilities
of creativity are also addressed.
"Creativity is not the finding of a thing, but the making something out of it after it is
--James Russell Lowell
Often times creativity is thought to be artistic, lofty, intelligent, out-of-the-ordinary, and
beyond understanding. However, creativity comes in much simpler forms such as
formulating a solution to an everyday problem; if someone runs out of fuel on the
highway, the person must think of a way to get to his/her destination, and this requires
creativity even if it is in its simplest form. Creativity can be observed in the unusual as
well. For instance, Craig Wallace, now a college freshman, developed a nuclear fusion
reactor out of junkyard parts and cheap finds. Creativity is not just the writings of
Descartes or the oil paintings of Klimt, so what is it?
What Is Creativity?
After exhaustive research, Morgan (1953) listed the universal factor for creativity to be
novelty (Cropley, 1999). Novelty requires originality and newness. There must be
something fresh to the idea.
Sternberg and Lubert (1995) proposed that novelty must be coupled with appropriateness
for something to be considered creative. Novelty can be the coalescence of any two or
more different things or thoughts. For instance, Damien Hirst is a controversial artist who
has sliced animals into fragments, but many people do not consider this creative even
though it is novel and original. Many people do not recognize the factor of
appropriateness in his work and consider it to be feckless.
Although creativity can be seen in the products, it can also be considered in terms of the
process. Weisberg (1986) proposes that creativity can be defined by the novel use of tools
to solve problems or novel problem solving. Dr. Gunther von Hagens has in the past few
years started exhibiting the dissected and transfigured bodies of people. Professor von
Hagens is a medical professor at the University of Heidelberg who perfected plastic
injection into bodily tissue. This is a novel use of tools to solve the problem of decay and
distortion from old methods of preserving human tissue. The end product is creative
because of the creative use of tools.
Ward, Finke, and Smith (1995) defined creativity in the products made, the differences in
people, the pressures that motivate, and the processes behind creativity. The products
made are new and fresh which is the clearest example of creativity. However, there are
defining subtleties in people; for example, some people are considered to be more
creative than others, and in addition to inherent differences in people, there are different
motivations for creativity (e.g., some people are driven to create). Finally, the process for
creativity can be different. Some people seclude themselves while others seek guidance
While there is debate over the guidelines for judging creativity, two things remain:
novelty and appropriateness. These two things may be viewed in the product, the tools,
the people, the motivation, and/or the processes, but these are the two necessary
What Is the Mechanism Behind Creativity?
"Creativity becomes more visible when adults try to be more attentive to the cognitive
processes of children than to the results they achieve in various fields of doing and
In the past, there was a great deal of mystery and awe involved with creativity and
creative undertakings. In ancient Roman and Greek times, poets would invoke the gods to
assist them in their writing. These poetic devices (e.g., metaphors and similes) are prime
examples of creativity. They are novel and appropriate, but people did not understand
from where these thoughts and ideas came. There was speculation that divine
intervention inspired the writers.
In the more recent past, creativity was thought to stem from unconscious thought
processes (Weisberg, 1986). This was probably due in large part to the Freudian approach
to psychology which emphasized unconscious thoughts. According to this perspective,
the unconscious would arrive at creative thoughts, and these thoughts would be pushed to
the conscious after being formulated. Naturally, since the unconscious thought process
can never be known, there was no way of understanding how this process occurred.
Wallas (1926) proposed that creativity involves four consecutive stages: preparation,
incubation, illumination, and verification (Bogen & Bogen, 2003). During preparation,
the person absorbs information. During incubation, the information settles. During
illumination, the solution manifests itself to the person, and during verification, the final
product is created.
Recently, Gabora (2002) asserts that the creative process requires a thought shift from
associative thinking to cause and effect thinking. Associative thinking might reveal some
correlation or relationship between two things, but this correlation might not provide a
solution and might not be appropriate. This replaces the preparation and incubation stages
of creativity. There is then a shift to cause and effect thinking which is analytical and
searches for a direct solution and for appropriateness. This replaces the illumination and
verification stages of creativity.
It is reasonable that the cognitive process for generating creative ideas does not stem
from the unconscious nor follows a rigid procedure, but instead it transforms and evolves
a collection of old ideas into new ones. This transformation and evolution may occur
through a cognitive shift as Gabora (2002) suggested.
What Are the Personality Bases for Creativity?
"There was never a genius without a tincture of madness."
There is a great deal of debate for what makes someone creative or not. Just as Aristotle
said in the above quotation, some believe that creative genius is contingent on insanity or
mental illness. Vincent Van Gogh has been cited as a “mad genius” in regard to his own
self-mutilation (i.e., cutting off his own ear) and his art work. Because of the mystery
surrounding creativity, people were uncertain about what underlying traits made some
people highly creative and others not.
Eysenck (1995) proposed that psychoticism caused creativity. Rawlings, Twomey, Burns,
and Morris (1998) found a relationship between creativity, psychoticism, and openness to
experience. Additionally, Martindale and Dailey (1996) found that creativity is linked to
psychoticism and extraversion, and this link is due to the commonality between
psychoticism and extraversion of disinhibition.
Aguilar-Alonso (1996) found that verbal creativity could be predicted by intelligence and
psychoticism, but creative behavior in drawing could be predicted by the ability to
perceive differences and extraversion, not intelligence and psychoticism. This suggests
that creative behavior is complex in regards to various personality traits.
Despite this support for psychoticism being the basis for creativity, there have been
researchers that have not found creativity to be related to psychoticism. Kline and Cooper
(1986) conducted an experiment using the EPQ and tests for creative behavior and did
not find psychoticism to be related to creativity on all levels as proposed by Eysenck.
Sternberg (2001) proposed that there is a dialectical relationship between creativity and
intelligence and wisdom. Intelligence is necessary for there to be creativity because not
only is generation of novel ideas necessary but the critical analysis of novel ideas is also
necessary. To be able to generate novel ideas, there must be some basic intelligence, but
to further analyze those ideas that are generated, there must be higher intelligence.
Sternberg (2001) uses the example of Charles Darwin's theories in evolution. Charles
Darwin was thought to be a creative because of his high intelligence – he was able to
generate the idea of evolution and to critically analyze it against other possibilities. If his
analysis had not been intelligent, then his creativity could have been a chance happening,
or it would not have been his theory of evolution in the first place.
Beyond intelligence, there must also be “wisdom” because intelligence alone is not
sufficient (Sternberg, 2001). Wisdom is considered by Sternberg (2001) to be the balance
between creativity and intelligence relegating the novel ideas according to their
appropriateness. It may be easy enough to generate novel ideas, but wisdom will
distinguish the reasonable from the unreasonable. A creative and intelligent person may
produce a novel idea, but without wisdom, the novel idea may be “foolish” or
inappropriate (Sternberg, 2001).
It is reasonable that creativity would be more closely linked to intelligence than to
psychoticism considering the proposed cognitive processes underlying creativity. With a
higher intelligence, more knowledge could be acquired, and thus more similarities and
dissimilarities could be known in order to make connections between two ideas. Through
this understanding, novel and appropriate results could be found and tested. Although
psychoticism could lead to an increase of novel ideas, that does not mean that the
necessary appropriateness would be present. As discussed before, novelty must be paired
with appropriateness for there to be creativity.
Where Is the Direction for Future Study of Creativity?
There is a profound interest in developing creativity as a function of Artificial
Intelligence (AI). Creativity has been considered an intrinsic function of replicating
human cognition. It involves innovation which has not been fully replicated in
technology. Systems have been developed to make decisions, but so far, these decisions
have been predictable. Creativity involves the unpredictable.
Desiano and Desiano (1995) break down the programming into clarification and
generation. From there, they further break down the tasks to program AI to have
creativity. These smaller tasks are as follows: analysis, logic, reasoning, problem solving,
association, synthesis, and evaluation and judgement. However, the programming would
be very difficult, and the tasks are ambiguous and broad.
Hoorn (2002) believes that computer programs can be taught to be creative by
programming knowledge, resources, and similarities between objects and ideas to create
novel approaches and things. This requires creating a large database from which the
technology will work. This database will have to include basic facts about objects for
instance, and from these basic facts, programs will be coded to recognize similarities
between the objects. Through recognizing these ideas, the programs will be combine
objects in order to develop something novel and appropriate.
In addition to developing creativity in AI, there is a profound interest in encouraging
creativity in education. There has always been an emphasis on educating and nurturing
certain qualities in children, and creativity is one such quality. With increasing
knowledge about the processes involved in creativity, there is greater hope for teaching
Poon Teng Fatt (2000) suggests diversity in the classroom setting through changing the
physical environment, the learning tools, and class discussion. It is suggested that through
unique experiences, unique cognitions will be encouraged. By changing the environment
and learning tools, children will be able to make better connections between things and
thoughts and will not be so restricted. By encouraging class discussion, banter and wit
will be encouraged along with the sharing of ideas and experiences.
Park and Heisler (1995) suggests creativity can be fostered through physical education
programs and the program can be utilized in other areas. This program has 5 stages which
focuses on high school students. In the first stage, students engage in physical
exploration. In the second stage, students learned safety skills such as first aid. In the
third stage, students learn how to guide other students specifically elementary school
children. In the fourth stage, the students administered state and national fitness tests, and
in the fifth stage, students taught elementary school children physical education. This
program emphasized open-ended learning which is thought to foster creativity.
McIntyre (1993) suggests that creativity can be encouraged through students doing
various creative exercises. The format for these exercises are done in 5 steps. In the first
step, the exercise or problem is presented to the class. In the second step, students are to
create solutions or ideas about the exercise. In the third step, the students form into
groups to consolidate and discuss solutions developed in the second step. In the fourth
step, decisions are made by the group as to what the best solution is, and in the fifth step,
the groups present their solution to the class, and the class discusses the solutions
presented. These exercises are thought to foster innovative ideas through individual
creation and through group creation.
Along with encouraging creativity in children, there is a push to encourage creativity in
business. With all businesses, there is the issue of innovation and new ideas which are the
result of creation and creativity. To stay on top, businesses must develop new ideas to
beat the competition, so naturally there is a drive to encourage creativity in employees.
Simpson (2001) suggests that creativity can be fostered if the work climate is right in the
following areas: challenge and involvement, freedom, trust/openness, idea time,
playfulness/humor, conflict resolution, idea support, debates, and risk taking. This like
Poon Teng Fatt's (2000) theory emphasizes the gathering of ideas in groups and the
fostering for the free flow of ideas.
Once considered to be the result of insanity or divine intervention, now the mystery
behind creativity is slowly being revealed. There has been much debate over what exactly
creativity is, and now creativity is believed to be characterized by novel and appropriate
ideas, products, and/or use of tools. It was once thought that creativity was caused by
psychoticism, but now it is considered to be a series of cognitions following some sort of
process. The process is not precisely known, but there are thoughtful speculations which
remove the mystery from creativity and the stigma that it is only being possessed by
With all this new information, there is a great deal of implementation. AI is now being
considered to be more alive if it possesses creativity, and theories are quickly being
developed as to how to program creativity. Education is attempting to encompass
creativity in addition to the acquisition of hard facts and other skills, and business is
noticing the importance of creativity in furthering growth of individual companies and
Excellent Summation, But Lacking Motive
Jonathan S. Byrd
Rochester Institute of Technology
In a nutshell, Dickhut's paper discussed creativity. First, she attempted to define
creativity, how creativity is recognized. The paper then went into the mechanisms behind
creativity, what spurs creativity, what inspires it, what is the driving force behind it. The
paper then touched on certain correlations that may exist between creativity and two
other traits: psychoses and intelligence. The last main segment went into applications for
these studies on creativity, how they can be used to better the world around us, and
possible future developments.
One major problem was present throughout the entire paper: The discussion flowed from
one topic to the next, and the reader was never quite certain why. In each segment,
Dickhut provided excellent examples from many different sources, but the sources
themselves were rarely if ever tied in with one another. It read like a compilation of
others' opinions and theories rather than an integrated review. The body of each section
was lacking input from the author. Each paragraph in the body presented an author's
theory regarding the section and briefly mentioned how it related to the last author's take
on the topic. The paper presented the material in a very "cookie-cutter" manner and
succeeded in removing the presence of the author almost entirely from her own paper.
The only time I felt the author's presence in the paper at all was in the introduction to the
paper (with the cases of Wallace, Descartes, and Klimt) and in the conclusion, in which
the paper was condensed into two paragraphs. As it stands, this paper is a very
comprehensive review of creativity, covering many topics and delving into those topics
rather thoroughly. If only the author had put in her opinions on the matter instead of
allowing others to talk for her, this would have been a much better review.
Reevaluating Creativity: Another Look at a Difficult
Shane K. Porzio
Rochester Institute of Technology
In "A Brief Review of Creativity," Dickhut outlined the past, present, and possible future
of creativity theory and research. Dickhut proposed four possible definitions of creativity,
which ranged from simply defining creativity as being something novel; to saying that
creativity must not only be novel but also appropriate, using tools in a new way; and even
to saying that creativity depends on the product made, the differences in the people who
made the product, the pressures that motivated the people, and the processes behind
creativity. With all these possible definitions, one would most likely find it difficult to
sort out all the possible theories proposed, but as Dickhut pointed out, the two factors in
the definitions that recur are that the idea is novel and that it is appropriate. This
fortunately gave a solid basis upon which the rest of the discussion was built.
Dickhut explained that she believed that the correlation between intelligence and wisdom
was more reasonable than that of the correlation between creativity and psychoticism. On
this point I was in disagreement. I felt that it was actually a combination of all these
personality traits that contributed to the level of creativity in an individual. The measure
of psychoticism as rated by the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire definitely has a
positive correlation with levels of creativity, and I felt that discounting this was probably
a mistake. Dickhut said that the creativity-psychoticism relation is less reasonable
because the "necessary appropriateness would not be present." I did not see that the
correlation with psychoticism in any way lowered the appropriateness of a solution,
because, for an outcome to be considered a solution, it should have to be appropriate and
relevant to the problem. If it were some completely unrelated novel idea, I find it hard to
believe that it would be considered a valid solution, let alone a creative solution.
In the last section, Dickhut described some possible futures for the application of
creativity models. The major topics discussed were implementations into artificial
intelligence in computers and encouraging creativity in education. I believe that in many
schools, this is already a very strong goal that they strive to attain. Personally, my middle
school had many programs for students that encouraged creativity and development of
"outside of the box thinking." As for creativity in A.I., I feel that researchers have a long
way to go; they are still struggling concretely to define creativity. On top of that,
researchers have even less understanding of what causes creativity to emerge and what
can be done to aide in its development. These are problems that will need to be solved
before researchers are able to recreate this phenomenon in the software world. As
creative an idea as that is, I believe it to be unrealistic in the near future. Then again, it is
very possible that I am just not creative enough to see how to obtain it.
Responses to Critiques and Thoughts
In response to Jonathan S. Byrd's comments concerning my paper, I believe I succeeded
in the purpose of my paper, which flowed in a logical progression from one topic to the
next. As stated in my title, the purpose of the paper was to provide a brief overview of
creativity that included what it was, what causes it (i.e., the mechanism and personality
traits behind it), and useful future developments. The paper is fairly mechanical, but I still
feel my voice was heard. For example, in my section about personality traits, I discussed
the popular notion that psychoticism is the basis for creativity, and then I refuted this
notion by discussing intelligence as the "real" basis for creativity. If I were to write the
paper all over again, I would not change the basic format, but I would make the paper
less mechanical and dry.
In response to Shane K. Porzio's comments concerning my paper, there is some
disagreement in opinion. I found research negating the claims of Eysenck and believed
Sternberg gave a more plausible explanation. Perhaps I should have discussed the
negation of Eysenck more in order to strengthen my own conviction as to the causes of
creativity. Eysenck basically set up his tests in a way that psychoticism would have to be
the impulse behind creativity and left little other possibility. I am not sure of the future
possibilities for research into creativity, but I wanted to inform the reader that research
was being conducted to utilize what we know about it. The utilization of psychological
knowledge is critical to the field and is line with the scientist-practitioner role that
psychologists are supposed to play, so it is interesting to learn that what is known about
creativity is being applied.
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