What is creativity? Is it that burning feeling that you have when you must break and bend the known rules and invest your energy in making a mark on the world, be it an art piece or maybe just something a little bit more practical that helps you enjoy your life more? Is it that sudden burst of an original idea in your mental landscape? Is it the capacity to reinvent, reorganize or reinterpret the data in a single field of study or is it linking information between several? It is all that and more, as we will discover when learning about the different levels of creativity distinguished by Irving A. Taylor.
But first, we dedicate the introductory part of this article to following the footsteps of the concept of creativity that were made in the scientific world of psychology by presenting a short history of the distinct points of view on its origin and characteristics.
Short History of Creativity
The word creativity has its origin in the Latin creare which means to make, to conceive, to develop, to produce. It was introduced in the psychological vocabulary by American psychologist Gordon Allport (1937) (buy his books from Amazon) and it is replacing the old terms of innovative spirit, inventivity, talent.
We owe the first attempt at studying it using scientific grounds to the work of English savant Francis Galton, Hereditary Genius (1869). Researching the genealogical tree of a large number of famous families which gave the world many generations of highly creative personalities, Galton reaches the conclusion that heredity is the determinant factor of the creative force and that genius people are endowed with exceptional intellectual aptitudes.
The year of 1950 is considered to be the beginning of the researched psychological studies on creativity. At the American Psychology Association (APA) Congress, J.P. Guilford (buy his books from Amazon) drew attention to the scarcity of studies related to creativity and proposed several directions of research involving this human personality dimension. Following this impulse, the diverse creativity problematic entered the research programs of the great majority of American and European universities.
In the 1960s and 1970s we witness an outburst of the number of papers reserved to study the problem of creativity. In 1970, the Czech psychologist J. Hlavsa inventoried no less than 2419 titles and the 1999 edition of Creativity Encyclopaedia mentions over 10000 papers written with regard to creativity during the time interval between the years 1960 and 1998.
Two Major Opposing Views
The close examination of the definitions given to creativity reveals that novelty, originality, ingeniosity and theoretical or practical values represent essential features of the creative activity. A lack of consensus in the approach of creativity could be caused by the fact that for a long time it was thought to be only a privilege of the genius, of a single minority, and, thus, the research was conducted only towards the lives and activities of the highly creative personalities.
A scientific research lead by British psychologist M. Freya in the 1990s showed that over 70% of the interviewed professors (over 1000 in total) believed creativity to be a gift reserved only for a few.
The American point of view, on the other hand, is in stark contrast: creativity is perceived as an ability that can be developed by the vast majority of individuals. J.P. Guilford believed that the creativity phenomenon represents a general human characteristic and that everyone can be placed on different levels of a continuum scale of creativity.
Levels of Creativity
Irving .A. Taylor goes even further than Guilford and suggests that we can distinguish between five different levels of creativity:
These are unfettered ideas, generally primitive, that emerge without the benefit of any guidelines, physical laws, or other restrictions. You might think of expressive creativity as a child using a box of multi-colored crayons to draw something.
In this stage, we use rules and physical laws to constrain our thinking, with little expressive spontaneity. Think of this stage as “practicing.” Things that emerge may be new to you, but may already be known to the world.
In this stage, we develop the ability to creatively combine existing technical concepts using prior design solutions to create new designs. Examples might be to use an old item in a new way.
Emergent creativity is the highest creative level. It involves rejecting current physical laws, principals, and constraints, and forming completely new theories about how the world works. This often results in a ground-breaking idea. Few people achieve this level.
Creativity seems to be a highly controversial human capacity and its processes are likely connected to cognitive and emotional attributes, be them conscious or unconscious. The value of its results can resonate in the single life of the inventor or it can change the course of action for the entire humanity. Either way, we cannot underestimate its importance in the act of designing the future, so why not learn the psychological mechanisms behind the process and start developing our creative skills right now?
William James, known as the father of American Psychology, developed along with his 19th Century fellow psychologist Carl Lange the James-Lange theory which considers that environmental events lead to the apparition of muscular and visceral responses, and that these responses eventually determine emotions. Instead of feeling an emotion and subsequent physiological (bodily) response, the theory proposes that the physiological change is primary, and emotion is after that experienced, as the brain reacts to the information received via the body’s nervous system.
The emotion follows the behaviour, and does not determine it.
Buddhist thought and philosophy share many overlapping points with present-day western psychology. These include a descriptive phenomenology of mental states, emotions and behaviours as well as theories of perception and unconscious mental factors.
Buddhism incorporates an analysis of human psyche, feelings, cognition, conduct and motivation along with therapeutic practices, everything embed within the greater Buddhist ethical thought and philosophical system, thus colouring its psychological terminology in moral overtones.
Psychotherapists such as Erich Fromm and Marsha Linehan have seen in Buddhist enlightenment experiences the potential for transformation, healing and finding existential meaning.
The framework described by Paul Ekman is influenced by Charles Darwin and Silvan Solomon Tomkins, although he himself stated that he did not accept in tot what either of them said. Ekman sustained there are three meanings for the term “basic” as you can read his argumentation in the article.
Ekman considers that emotional expressions are crucial to the development and regulation of interpersonal relationships. His studies demonstrated that facial expressions play an important role in the formation of attachments and are involved in the formation, acceleration or deceleration of aggressive behaviour.
Neuroticism is one of the five personality dimensions of the Big Five personality theory. It describes the overall emotional stability of an individual through how they perceive the world. It takes into account how likely a person is to interpret events as threatening or difficult, includes one’s propensity to experience negative emotions and is characterized by frequent mood changes, a tendency to worry, and recurrent sadness.
Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment, which one can develop through the practice of meditation and through other training. Mindfulness is derived from Sati, a significant element of Buddhist traditions, and based on Zen, Vipassanā, and Tibetan meditation techniques.
Mindfulness practice has been employed to reduce symptoms of depression, to reduce stress, anxiety, and in the treatment of drug addiction. Moreover, research has shown that people who meditate are happier, healthier, and more successful than those who don’t.
In this articles we present the most effective and easy-to-practice mindfulness approaches for everyday life.
The term collective unconscious was originally coined by Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) and has been elaborately explained in his book Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. It represents a form of the unconscious ( the part of the mind containing memories and impulses of which the individual is not aware) common to mankind as a specie and it originates in inherited structures of the psyche, passed on from generation to generation.