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?
During the 1970′, at Geneva, a new perspective on cognitive development has begun to emerge. The self-defined school of socio-genetical psychology advanced theories that represented a challenge addressed to the spirit of genetical epistemology.
Willem Doise, Gabriel Mugny and Jean Claude Deschamp, to name but a few of the representatives, declare that social interactions constitute the privileged setting which gives birth to the intellectual acquisitions of the child. There is a direct cause and effect link between social interaction and individual cognitive development.
In Jungian psychology, also called analytical psychology, individuation is the process where the individual self develops out of an undifferentiated unconscious – seen as a developmental psychic process during which innate elements of personality, the components of the immature psyche, and the experiences of the person’s life become, if the process is more or less successful, integrated over time into a well-functioning whole. Other psychoanalytic theorists describe it as the stage where an individual transcends group attachment and narcissistic self-absorption.
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 American psychologist Jerome S. Bruner, strongly influenced by the work of Russian psychologist Lev Vygostky, further developed and applied his ideas in the field of education. Bruner declared that Vygotsky has convinced him about the impossibility of understanding the concept of human development in any other way than as a process of assistance, of collaboration between child and adult, where the adult is taking up the role of a sociocultural mediator. Due to its distinct features, we consider the theory to be a sociocultural constructivist one.
Openness to experience is one of the five personality dimensions of the Big Five personality theory. It indicates how open-minded a person is. Openness is that part of everyone’s personality that describes receptiveness to new ideas, different concepts and opinions, change, curiosity, creativity, and imagination. Individuals with a high level of openness have a general appreciation for unusual ideas and art.
Conscientiousness is one of the five personality dimensions of the Big Five personality theory. Conscientiousness is defined as the propensity to follow socially prescribed norms for impulse control, to be goal-directed, to plan, and to be able to delay gratification. It describes a person’s ability to regulate impulses and measures elements such as control, inhibition, and persistency of behaviour.