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Creativity: Definitions, Approaches and Relationship to Task Motivation

Page history last edited by Kyle Adair 10 years, 7 months ago

"It is better to create than to be learned, creating is the true essence of life."

~Barthold Georg Niebuhr


The english word creativity comes from the Latin term creƍ, which means "to create, make."  The traditional view of creativity in Western culture was one in which creativity was an act of divine inspiration, or an inspiring gift from God. This view was dominant until the Renaissance in Europe, when the term "creativity" began to be linked more commonly to the concept of imagination (most famously in relation to art theory).  However, creativity as the subject of proper study didn't begin to emerge until the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  The formal measurement of creativity is usually credited to have begun with J.P. Guilford's description of divergent production and has continued with the more contemporary view of an investment theory of creativity, both of which are discussed further on this page.








Contrary to popular belief, creativity is not necessarily always a stroke of immediate genius or a "eureka" moment of insight. Rather, creativity is most often defined as a problem solving task, in which the solution to be found is novel, high quality, and/or useful in some shape or form.  The creative process must also allow one to reach some goal, in that it must be useful and appropriate.  Some psychologists argue that creativity is based on ordinary thinking, similar to everyday problem solving.  Other psychologists argue that creative products are not generally produced by ordinary people; rather, certain "exceptional" individuals are extraordinarily creative in their specific area of expertise, such as music, literature, or other such artistic endeavors.  



Approaches to Creativity


Since it's beginnings, as an object of psychological and scientific study, there have been many different approaches to studying creativity.  However, the two major contrasting viewpoints are J. P. Guilford's proposal of divergent production and the more contemporary investment theory of creativity, which are both explored further below.


 1.) J.P. Guilford's Description of Divergent Production: 

      The initial scientific research in creativity is generally traced to J. P. Guilford and his proposal of divergent production. Divergent production is defined as a measurement of creativity in terms of the number of varied responses made to each test item. It has also been noted in contemporary research that creativity also requires divergent thinking, rather than just one single best answer. The higher the score on the test, the supposed higher level of creativity. In order to make a high score, the participant must explore a given problem in many different directions from the initial problem state. Research has shown moderate correlations between participants' scores and other judgments of their creativity. However, this measure does not assess whether the solutions meet the three aforementioned criteria for creativity- novelty, high quality, and usefulness.              


2.) Contemporary View of Investment Theory of Creativity:

      The proposed investment theory of creativity is centered around the idea that  an individual produces a creative idea when no one else is interested in the "investment." According to the original proponents of the theory, Robert Sternberg and his colleagues, the essential characteristics of "creative investors" are: intelligence, knowledge, motivation, an encouraging environment, an "appropriate" thinking style, and an "appropriate" personality. This theory, unlike the aforementioned divergent production proposal, emphasizes both the individual and their environment. In other words, even though a person may have creative attributes, unless they also have an encouraging work environment, they will not be creative.






Task Motivation and Creativity


Motivation is most often defined as  the encouragement to do something, or the incentive to reach a specific goal. In other words, motivation is the reason an individual completes a given task and is therefore crucial to the creative process (motivation is listed as one of the necessary characteristics of creativity in the aforementioned investment theory). There are two types of motivation: intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is the motivation to complete a given task for its own sake, because it is interesting, exciting, or personally challenging. Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is the motivation to work on a given task, not because one finds it particularly enjoyable, but rather in order to earn a promised reward or to win a competition. Research has demonstrated that people are likely to be most creative when working on a task they truly enjoy; therefore, high in intrinsic motivation. However, when one views a task as simply a means of earning a reward or a positive evaluation (high in extrinsic motivation), their intrinsic motivation decreases and therefore so does their creativity. Extrinsic motivation is generally only thought to produce creativity when the external factors provide useful information. Therefore, when one works on a task they generally enjoy and the external rewards do not undermine their creative efforts, creativity increases. 






External Links


1. Creativity Online: This website campaigns some of the most innovative visual and idea-centric communication from around the world.

2. Elizabeth Gilbert on Nurturing Creativity: This eloquent talk by famed author of Eat Pray Love is a more personal and alternative spin on nurturing creative gifts throughout the lifespan.       

3. The Worse the Economy, The Greater the Creativity: An article from the New York Times that explores how the worsening recession may actually be leading to greater levels of creativity among citizens.

4. Creativity Portal: An innovative website dedicated to the fostering of creativity, such as how to spark passion and creativity at work.

5. Amy Tan Discusses Where Creativity "Hides": A video of a talk given by world renown author Amy Tan in which she discusses her own creative process and where she thinks creativity "comes from." 

6. Historical Conceptions of Creativity: Explanations of historical and multi-cultural views of the concept of creativity. 

7. Going Abroad Lends to Greater Levels of Creativity: An article propagating the idea that traveling abroad leads to greater levels in creativity and novel thinking. 

8. Creativity Test: Tests developed by Indiana University to test right-brain versus left-brain creativity.

9. What is Creativity - California State University described what it means to be creative. 

10. Creativity in Today's World - views of how creativity influences the economy, business and success 


This web page was created by Samantha Mattern. It was then edited by Kyle Adair. If there are any issues with any copyright material on this page, contact Kyle Adair at 10698013@live.mercer.edu.

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