The Standard Definition of Creativity

The Standard Definition of Creativity (PDF)

2022 • 6 Pages • 74.46 KB • English
Posted July 01, 2022 • Submitted by Superman

Visit PDF download

Download PDF To download page

Summary of The Standard Definition of Creativity

COMMENTS AND CORRECTIONS The Standard Definition of Creativity Mark A. Runco and Garrett J. Jaeger Torrance Creativity Center, University of Georgia, Athens This Correction focuses on issues surrounding definitions of creativity. No topic is more central to research on creativity. There is a clear need to ‘‘correct’’ at least one all-too-common oversight found in definitions within the creativity literature. Not surprisingly, nearly every article in the CRJ at least briefly defines creativity. The problem is that many articles cite books or articles from the 1990s or, at best, the 1980s, when defining creativity, when, in fact, the definition they are using—which is broadly accepted and thus can be called the standard definition—actually has a long history. It is a shame that the early discus- sions of the standard definition are ignored. Some of them are rich and remain entirely relevant. They are cited in the following. The overarching purpose of all Corrections is to remind researchers that the field of creativity studies predates online literature searches. Although the science of creativity is, in some ways, unique and unlike other scientific endeavors (see Runco, in press, for details), the field of creativity studies relies on the scientific method and is implicitly collaborative. Research builds on pre- vious research. Originality is a core value in creativity stu- dies, but this does not justify ignoring relevant research that was done previously. Good research is integrated into the larger field, citing what came before, in addition its originality and utility. Corrections in the CRJ ensure that due credit is given to earlier research. The field of creativity studies has roots in the 1950s, 1940s, and 1930s. Domain differences were examined in the 1930s (e.g., Patrick, 1935, 1937, 1938), and social criteria of creativity relying on consensual agreement go back at least to 1953 (Stein, 1953), just to name two examples. When was the standard definition of creativity first proposed? THE STANDARD DEFINITION The standard definition is bipartite: Creativity requires both originality and effectiveness. Are two criteria really necessary? Originality is undoubtedly required. It is often labeled novelty, but whatever the label, if something is not unusual, novel, or unique, it is commonplace, mundane, or conventional. It is not original, and therefore not creative. Originality is vital for creativity but is not sufficient. Ideas and products that are merely original might very well be useless. They may be unique or uncommon for good reason! Originality can be found in the word salad of a psychotic and can be produced by monkeys on word processors. A truly random process will often generate something that is merely original. So again, originality is not alone sufficient for creativ- ity. Original things must be effective to be creative. Like originality, effectiveness takes various forms. It may take the form of (and be labeled as) usefulness, fit, or appropri- ateness. The Inaugural Editorial of the CRJ, which appeared nearly 25 years ago, referred to utility when describing what kind of research would be published (Runco, 1988). Creative research on creativity would be published, and the standard definition was used: ‘‘Originality is vital, but must be balanced with fit and appropriateness’’ (Runco, 1988, p. 4). Effectiveness may take the form of value. This label is quite clear in the economic research on creativity; it describes how original and valuable products and ideas depend on the current market, and more specifically on the costs and benefits of contrarianism (i.e., originality; Rubenson, 1991; Rubenson & Runco, 1992, 1995; Sternberg & Lubart, 1991). Value was also recognized by Bethune—in 1839! He described value as: The stability of the fabric which gives perpetuity to the decoration. To mingle the useful with the beautiful, is Correspondence should be sent to Mark A. Runco, Torrance Creativity Center, University of Georgia, Aderhold Hall, Athens, GA 30602. E-mail: [email protected] CREATIVITY RESEARCH JOURNAL, 24(1), 92–96, 2012 Copyright # Taylor & Francis Group, LLC ISSN: 1040-0419 print=1532-6934 online DOI: 10.1080/10400419.2012.650092 the highest style of art. The one adds grace, the other value. It would be a poor summing up of a life upon earth, to find that all the powers of an immortal intellect had been devoted to the amusement of idle hours, or the excitement of empty mirth, or even the mere gratifi- cation of taste, without a single effort to make men wiser and better and happier. If the examination be made, it will be found, that those works of Genius are the most appreciated, which are the most pregnant with truth, which give us the best illustrations of nature, the best pictures of the human heart, the best maxims of life, in a word, which are the most useful. (p. 61) Bethune referred to art, and genius, but he assumed that creativity played a role in each. Continuing, Yet familiar as the effects of Genius are, it is not easy to define what Genius is. The etymology of the term will, however, assist us. It is derived from the verb, signifying to engender or create, because it has the quality of orig- inating new combinations of thought, and of presenting them with great clearness and force. Originality of conception, and energy of expression, are essential to Genius. (p. 59) It was common to conflate creativity and genius in Bethune’s (1839) era, and, in fact, that same blend can be seen well into the 1900s. Bethune (1839) quoted Shakespeare when describing the two facets of genius: The poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling, Doth glace from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven— And as imagination bodies forth The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen Turns them to shape, and gives to airy nothing A local habitation and a name. (p. 59) This is from A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Act 5, Scene 1, which was probably written after 1590 but before 1596) and not surprisingly is only two lines below what is probably the Shakespearean quotation most often cited in creativity research, namely, ‘‘The lunatic, lover, and the poet=Are of imagination all compact.’’ The poetic description of imagination finding ‘‘a local habituation and a name’’ is as suggestive as it is artful, but it is not a clear statement of originality and effective- ness. Thus, neither Shakespeare nor Bethune (1839) should be credited with the original standard definition of creativity. They seemed to be thinking about two requirements that parallel originality and effectiveness, but their wording leaves a fair bit of ambiguity. In fact, some of the difficulty in finding the first occurrence of the standard definition is that the word creativity has a fairly short history. Royce (1898) was on the right track, and, like Bethune (1839), he worked before 1900: In general, whether with or without deliberation, the effort to make the unlike results in a pretty constant and subtle modification of the style of the original habits, a modification small, but visible, and due, if you like, to suggestion. Here is a blending of one’s own style with the results of outer stimulus. It is just such blending that, in some arts and even in some sort of scientific work, consti- tutes valuable inventiveness. (p. 145) Royce’s (1898) mention of ‘‘variation’’ is quite inter- esting, given the ongoing debate about blind variation and selective retention as requirements for the creative process (Gabora, 2011; Runco, 2007a; Simonton, 2007; Weisberg & Hass, 2007), but what is most pertinent is the phrase ‘‘valuable inventiveness.’’ Still, Royce did not use the words originality, creativity, nor even useful- ness, and although invention is sometimes associated with creativity, it is certainly not a synonym (Runco, 2007b). Hutchinson (1931, p. 393) did use the word creativity and included ‘‘practicality’’ in his view of it. In his words, ‘‘In general. such contributions bear on the implications of creative thought for ethics, rather than on the tech- nique of attaining creativeness itself. From a more practi- cal standpoint... creative thought makes transformations in the world’’ (emphasis added). That ‘‘practical stand- point’’ could be the perspective of the author (and not the practicality of the creative act), but Hutchinson tied it to events ‘‘in the world.’’ Presumably, these are realistic or useful in or for our lives. It could be that he was refer- ring to a method for finding creative ideas (the transform- ation of what already exists ‘‘in the world’’), in which case we still do not have an unambiguous proposal for the standard definition of creativity. It is often a good tactic to work backwards. With that in mind: The two-criterion view was already the standard definition in the 1960s. Bruner (1962), for example, in one of the true classics in the field, described how creativity requires ‘‘effective surprise’’ (p. 18). Cropley (1967) pointed to the need for creative things to be ‘‘worthwhile’’ (p. 67) and reflect some ‘‘compelling’’ property (p. 21). Jackson and Messick (1965, p. 313) felt that products must be ‘‘appropriate’’ and Kneller (1965, p. 7) stated that products must be ‘‘relevant.’’ Cattell and Butcher (1968) and Heinelt (1974) used the terms pseudocreativity and quasicreativity to describe products that were not worthwhile or effective. Thus we must look for the first presentation of the standard definition before 1960. A second good tactic is to use base rates. This suggests a close examination of Institute for Personality and Social Research and the first generation of scholars com- mitted to scientific research on creativity (see Helson, 1999). Indeed, it will come as no surprise to serious STANDARD DEFINITION OF CREATIVITY 93 students of creativity research that Barron (1955) men- tioned the standard definition over 50 years ago. He wrote, A second criterion that must be met if a response is to be called original is that it must be to some extent adaptive to reality. The intent of this requirement is to exclude uncommon responses which are merely random, or which proceed from ignorance or delusion. (p. 479) This quotation might be enough to credit Barron (1955) with the first explicit statement of the standard defi- nition, but then again, ‘‘adaptation to reality’’ was in his discussion of originality and not creativity per se. In fact, Barron referred to two criteria, but one was a criterion for originality, not creativity. He wrote, The first criterion of an original response is that it should have a certain stated uncommonness in the particular group being studied. A familiar example of this in psychological practice is the definition of an original response to the Rorschach inkblots, the requirement there being that the response should, in the examiner’s experience, occur no more often than once in 100 exam- inations. (pp. 478–479) The title of Barron’s (1955) paper was ‘‘The Disposition Towards Originality,’’ and the two criteria he discussed were uncommonness and adaptation to reality. He was therefore right on target for effectiveness (or usefulness, utility, and value) but he was not explicit about how this all fits with creativity! Creativity was a concern for Barron (1955); he opened this article by criticizing the tendency to disembody the creative act and the creative process by limiting our inquiry to the creator’s mental content at the moment of insight, forgetting that it is a highly organized system of responding that lies behind, the particular orig- inal response which, because of its validity, becomes an historical event. (p. 479) He was interested in creativity, but did not define it. He defined originality instead. Guilford (1950) is often credited with publishing the first compelling argument that creativity can be studied scientifically. How did he define creativity? In his own words: In its narrow sense, creativity refers to the abilities that are most characteristic of creative people. Creative abilities determine whether the individual has the power to exhibit creative behavior to a noteworthy degree. Whether or not the individual who has the requisite abili- ties will actually produce results of a creative nature will depend upon his motivational and temperamental traits. To the psychologist, the problem is as broad as the qualities that contribute significantly to creative pro- ductivity. In other words, the psychologist’s problem is that of creative personality. (p. 444) That is probably best viewed as a recommendation of what to study. It does not define creativity, other than tautologically ‘‘creativity is the characteristic of creative people.’’ Guilford (1950) did point to criteria for creativity when he stated that ‘‘the creative person has novel ideas. The degree of novelty of which the person is capable, or which he habitually exhibits... can be tested in terms of the frequency of uncommon, yet acceptable, responses to items’’ (p. 452). He thus emphasized originality and operationalized it as novelty and, even more precisely, in terms of uncommon behaviors. What of the second part of the standard definition? Guilford (1950) did refer to acceptable ideas, the impli- cation being that novelty by itself is not sufficient for creativity. He explored this point further when he wrote, ‘‘Creative work that is to be realistic or accepted must be done under some degree of evaluative restraint. Too much restraint, of course, is fatal to the birth of new ideas. The selection of surviving ideas, however, requires some evaluation’’ (p. 453). Thus, Guilford seemed to be assuming that creativity requires originality and effec- tiveness. He used the terms realistic and acceptable for the latter, which is slightly problematic, but still he was thinking about creativity in a fashion that is entirely consistent with the standard definition. The reason acceptable is a problematic way of labeling the criterion of effectiveness is that it begs the question, ‘‘Acceptable for whom?’’ Long ago, Murray (1958) asked, ‘‘Who is to judge the judges? And the judges of the judges?’’ Simonton (in press) and Runco (2003) also saw the question of judges to be a part of issues of defi- nition. Stein (1953) seemed to be aware of this issue and, for this reason, distinguished between the internal and external frames of reference that might be used when defining creativity. As a matter of fact, to our reading, the first clear use of the standard definition seems to have been in an article on creativity and culture, written by Stein (1953). In his words, Let us start with a definition. The creative work is a novel work that is accepted as tenable or useful or satisfying by a group in some point in time . . . . By ‘‘novel’’ I mean that the creative product did not exist previously in precisely the same form . . . . The extent to which a work is novel depends on the extent to which it deviates from the tra- ditional or the status quo. This may well depend on the nature of the problem that is attacked, the fund of knowledge or experience that exists in the field at the time, and the characteristics of the creative individual and those of the individuals with whom he [or she] is 94 RUNCO AND JAEGER communicating. Often, in studying creativity, we tend to restrict ourselves to a study of the genius because the ‘‘distance’’ between what he [or she] has done and what has existed is quite marked . . . . In speaking of creativity, therefore, it is necessary to distinguish between internal and external frames of reference. (pp. 311–312) Stein (1953) was the first to offer the standard definition in an entirely unambiguous fashion, and unlike his pre- decessors, he was without a doubt talking about creativ- ity per se. He was not discussing originality, although novelty, and therefore originality, are vital for creativity, and he was not discussing genius, although he offered a useful perspective on it (the ‘‘distance’’). Stein (1953) is also quoted in detail because he offered several other ideas that are still in use and were well ahead of their time. These include his ideas that (a) cre- ative work tends to be useful for some group, and thus that social judgment is involved; (b) a creative insight ‘‘arises from a reintegration of already existing materials or knowledge, but when it is completed it contains ele- ments that are new’’ (p. 311); and (c) it is important to separate personal from historical creativity (cf. Boden, 1994; Runco, 1996). Stein also foresaw that environ- ments never have a completely predictable impact. Their influence is always dependent on the individual’s percep- tion. This view is usually described as a trait � state inter- action and was clearly apparent in the early definition of press (one of the four strands of research identified by Rhodes, 1961). Stein was aware of the role of both sensi- tivity and problem finding ability (‘‘The creative person has a lower threshold, or greater sensitivity, for the gaps or the lack of closure that exist in the environment’’ [p. 312]), recognized the benefits of broad attention and loose associations (cf. Dailey A. et al., 1997), and in 1953 was already studying domain differences, as is so common in creativity research today. Stein reported data from artists and chemists and concluded that creativity benefits from permeable cognitive structures, ‘‘for per- sons in one area (physics, for example) it may mean greater flexibility in the intellectual sphere, while for other. . . the artist, it appears as a greater flexibility in the emotional or affective sphere’’ (p. 313). CONCLUSIONS Although there were hints that creativity requires originality and usefulness in publications before 1900, it seems to us that Barron (1955), and especially Stein (1953), should be cited whenever the standard definition is used. This does not imply that no further work is needed and that the standard definition is completely adequate. Important research is being done on several fronts. One involves the basis of judgments. The standard definition only pinpoints which criteria must be used; it does not say anything about who is to judge each, and who is to judge the judges. Then there are questions about the number of criteria that should be used in a definition of creativity. The standard view points to two criteria, but perhaps there are more—or fewer! Simonton (in press) made a strong case for three criteria—surprise being the third—and Runco (in press) raised the possibility that only one criterion is needed. Simonton based his argument on guidelines from the U.S. Patent office; Runco felt that parsimony was the best guide. These two theories of creativity are easy to find in other issues of the CRJ. REFERENCES Barron, F. (1955). The disposition towards originality. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 51, 478–485. Bethune, G. W. (1839). Genius. Casket, 8, 59–69. Boden (1994). Dimensions of creativity. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Bruner, J. S. (1962). The conditions of creativity. In H. Gruber, G. Terrell, & M. Wertheimer (Eds.), Contemporary approaches to creative thinking (pp. 1–30). New York, NY: Atherton. Cattell, R. B., & Butcher, H. J. (1968). The prediction of achievement and creativity. New York, NY: Bobbs–Merrill. Cropley, A. J. (1967). Creativity. London, UK: Longmans, Green. Dailey, A., Martindale, C., & Borleum, J. (1997). Creativity, synesthe- sia, and physiognomic perception. Creativity Research Journal, 10, 1–8. Gabora, L. (2011). An analysis of the blind variation and selective retention theory of creativity. Creativity Research Journal, 23, 155–165. Guilford, J. P. (1950). Creativity. American Psychologist, 5, 444–454. Heinelt, G. (1974). Kreative Lehrer=kreative Schu¨ler [Creative teachers=creative students]. Freiburg, Germany: Herder. Helson, R. (1999). Institute of Personality Assessment and Research. In M. A. Runco & S. Pritzker (Eds.), Encylcopedia of creativity (pp. 71–79). San Diego, CA: Academic Press. Hutchinson, E. D. (1931). Materials for the study of creative thinking. Psychological Bulletin, 28, 392–410. Jackson, P. W., & Messick, S. (1965). The person, the product, and the response: Conceptual problems in the assessment of creativity. Journal of Personality, 33, 309–329. Kneller, G. F. (1965). Art and science of creativity. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. Murray, H. A. (1959). Vicissitudes of creativity. In H. H. Anderson (Ed.), Creativity and its cultivation (pp. 203–221). New York, NY: Harper. Patrick, C. (1935). Creative thought in poets. Archives of Psychology, 26, 1–74. Patrick, C. (1937). Creative thought in artists. Journal of Psychology, 5, 35–73. Patrick, C. (1938). Scientific thought. Journal of Psychology, 5, 55–83. Rhodes, M. (1961). An analysis of creativity. Phi Delta Kappan, 42, 305–310. Royce, J. (1898). The psychology of invention. Psychological Review, 5(2), 113–144. Rubenson, D. L. (1991). On creativity, economics, and baseball. Creativity Research Journal, 4, 205–209. Rubenson, D. L., & Runco, M. A. (1992). The psychoeconomic approach to creativity. New Ideas in Psychology, 10, 131–147. STANDARD DEFINITION OF CREATIVITY 95 Rubenson, D. L., & Runco, M. A. (1995). The psychoeconomic view of creative work in groups and organizations. Creativity and Innovation Management, 4, 232–241. Runco, M. A. (1988). Creativity research: Originality, utility, and integration. Creativity Research Journal, 1(1), 1–7. Runco, M. A. (1996). Personal creativity: Definition and developmental issues. New Directions for Child Development, 72, 3–30. Runco, M. A. (2003). Idea evaluation, divergent thinking, and creativity. In M. A. Runco (Ed.), Critical creative processes (pp. 69–94). Cresskill, NJ: Hampton. Runco, M. A. (2007a). Chance and intentionality in creative perfor- mance. Creativity Research Journal, 17, 395–398. Runco, M. A. (2007b). Creativity: Theories and themes: Research, development, and practice. San Diego, CA: Academic Press. Runco, M. A. (in press). The new science of creativity. Philadelphia, PA: Taylor & Francis. Simonton, D. K. (2007). The creative process in Picasso’s Guernica sketches: Monotonic improvements versus nonmonotonic variants. Creativity Research Journal, 19, 329–344. Simonton, D. K. (in press). Taking the U.S. Patent Office criteria seriously: A quantitative three-criterion creativity definition and its implications. Creativity Research Journal. Stein, M. I. (1953). Creativity and culture. Journal of Psychology, 36, 31–322. Sternberg, R. J., & Lubart, T. I. (1991). Short selling investment theories of creativity? A reply to Runco. Creativity Research Journal, 4, 200–202. VandenBos, G. (Ed.). (2007). APA dictionary of psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Weisberg, R., & Hass, R. (2007). We are all partly right: Comment on Simonton. Creativity Research Journal, 19, 345–360. 96 RUNCO AND JAEGER Copyright of Creativity Research Journal is the property of Taylor & Francis Ltd and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use.