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Creativity in the Arts and Sciences

Historical Conceptions, Core Controversies Concerning Creativity, Contemporary Research, Bibliography

Because creativity is a complex concept, it has multiple definitions. Of the various conceptions, however, three are currently most common. These are the product, person, and process definitions. According to the first, creativity is manifested in an identifiable outcome, such as a poem, painting, invention, or discovery. Moreover, this product must fulfill two essential conditions. First, it must be original or novel, at least with respect to an individual's discipline or culture. Simply repeating what has already been done does not count as bona fide creativity. Second, the product must be useful in some manner. For instance, a scientific discovery will have to satisfy certain theoretical or experimental standards, whereas an artistic creation will have to meet specific aesthetic criteria. This second condition is required to separate creative products from original but psychotic hallucinations and delusions.

The remaining two definitions are closely related to the product definition but shift perspective on the phenomenon. According to the person definition, creativity is whatever attributes individuals must possess to conceive creative products. These attributes may include both cognitive traits, such as intelligence, and personality traits, such as motivation. For the process definition, in contrast, creativity is the process or set of processes by which a person conceives creative products. This definition obliges the investigator to focus on various problem-solving operations, such as insight, intuition, incubation, and even trial and error.

The choice of definition clearly determines how a researcher or scholar studies creativity. Where some assess the attributes of creative products, others examine the characteristics of creative persons, and still others scrutinize the features of the creative process. Nevertheless, despite the diversity of analytical perspectives, it is assumed that all three approaches are looking at the same underlying phenomenon.

Creativity can be manifested in a great variety of situations, from the play activities of young children to industrial research and development teams. However, discussion here will be confined to creativity in the arts and sciences. The discussion begins with historical conceptions of creativity and ends with an overview of contemporary research on the phenomenon.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Cosine to Cyano group