Most researchers of the rationalist bent
enumerate phases to the creative process, but note that these phases lack
elements of the unconscious. Ego states may be associated. Thus, feelings of
excitement and satisfaction that may occur when we create are explained by
association. Hattiangadi goes so far as to dispute the
word "genius" to describe people of extraordinary ability. Those
who have a thorough understanding of intellectual traditions and a full
appreciation of the problem confronting them need only be reasonable to
produce what is often perceived as products of inspiration.
One early approach to the rationalist study
of creativity was psychoanalytical, emphasizing motivational and
temperamental characteristics. That method was soon
overtaken by information processing. Computers provided an analogue that
enabled researchers such as Newell and Simon to explain complex
behavior as the interaction of environmental demands and memory. Recognition
of a problem prompts initial search, quick comparisons, and retrieval of a
The information-processing approach
attempts to explain behavior, not merely describe it, albeit
reductionistically. Newell and Simon choose, however, to omit the possible
effect on this system of sensory and motor skills and of motivational and
personality variables. Their specific concern is with the role of the
central nervous system. Thus, the effects of certain personality or
experiential factors upon inventive thought receive scant regard.
The clean lines of the rationalist approach
would divest the creative process of the unexpected. Rather than a time
during which extended unconscious thinking occurs, when it does occur
illumination may be more the result of objectivity-generating distance from
complexity. Close examination of inspiration often reveals
the presence of discernible mental steps between problem and solution.
From this perspective, the unconscious merely regulates the routine.
THE GESTALT APPROACH
With the impetus of Wertheimer and Kôhler,
the Gestalt approach to understanding creativity took intriguing turns, many
of which, alas, confront us with dilemmas. In a paper presented at a
University of Colorado symposium on creative thinking, Mary Henle proposes four characteristics of creative
thinking, none of which, she cautions, should be considered necessary or
Henle also notes conditions that foster
creative thinking: Being immersed in the subject matter, yet still detached;
being capable of utilizing error, for, as Kôhler illustrated, not all
errors are committed equal; and, crucially, being receptive.
In an attempt to understand, Gestaltists
compared creativity to other traits. They assumed that many qualities
contribute to creativity and that creative talents are not confined to a
fortunate few. People such as Guilford who applied factor analysis to
creativity rejected the monolithic view of intelligence and tried to see how
the two might be related.
What is the relationship between
intelligence and inventiveness? Scatterplots of creativity between IQ values
of 60 and 150 show low creativity at the low end of IQ, but, as noted in
early studies, no correlation at the other. Thus, intelligence appears to
set a limit on the potential for creativity and yet is no guarantee of it. In 1969, Wallach and Wing performed the study that seemed
unequivocally to separate the two. They
measured four aspects of their subjects, incoming freshmen at Duke
University: intelligence, grades, creativity in terms of divergent thinking,
and creativity in terms of production. Their results were straightforward. There was good correlation between intelligence and grades; there was good
correlation between both measures of creativity. There was no correlation
between either measure of creativity and intelligence or grades. Creativity
and intelligence are distinct.
Of all things it might be, the bedfellow of
creativity is probably not going to be conformity.
creative powers by weakening trust in the validity of one’s own thought
processes. Richard Crutchfield discussed results of
measuring tendencies to conform among military officers, college sophomores,
and research scientists, the latter of whom had been recognized for
originality in their fields. The presence of conformity, as measured in
comparative conformity scores among various groups, was inverse to the
presence of creativity. The extreme conformist doubts his personal adequacy.
This makes him timid to express ideas divergent from those of his group, and
likely to defer to its dictates, regardless of the actuality of outer
pressure. This is poor soil in which to root creativity. This is not to say
that, to be creative, one must become an outcast. A truly independent
thinker is able to achieve a balance between self-reliance and group
alliance, and can resist pressures to conform without becoming a pariah.
Now, the area of debate between
the perspectives on creativity. In contrast to the rationalist view, the
Gestalt approach recognizes, as a sometime condition for creative release, a
need to relinquish the will. This temporary suspension enables the interplay
of reason, emotion, and unconscious process. Thus receptive,
we are also more prone to what Jerome Bruner calls
the hallmark of creative enterprise: effective surprise. It is briefest
recognition, succeeded by quick acceptance. Connections occur where before
there were none. Things fall suddenly, sublimely into place.
Bruner posits another condition to creative
enterprise, one intimately connected with the receptivity that enables
effective surprise: the freedom to be dominated by the creation. One begins,
in his example, to write a poem. Soon the poem begins to develop its own
tempo and meter, perhaps unrelated to the poet’s original intent. The poet
begins to resonate to the power of her creation. This is a powerful and
intensely personal experience, unmistakable and unforgettable, ineffable and
seldom discussed. Bruner quotes the words of a friend: "If it does not
take over and you are foolish enough to go on, what you end up with is
contrived and alien."
Today, most researchers agree on initial
study and final verification as requisites to the creative process. As to the
interval between, there is dispute. The argument turns on whether or not
creative thought can be brought to heel. To my mind, the kind of thought that
can be taught and evoked at will is productive thought. It is active.
produces solid, satisfying results. Productive thought leaves one content with
accomplishment and replete from exertion of the will; knowledge of having
comported oneself well imparts a potent satisfaction. Sometimes, however, that
process gives rise to surprise permutations -- the unexpected insight, the
unsolicited twist that confers new dimension. That kind of thought is creative.
It is passive. It leaves one feeling singled out, affected by
something external, grateful for the privilege; paradoxically, the peaceful
aftermath to surrender of the will is a feeling of consumed and transcendent
integration. Such an experience cannot be summoned forth like a genie from a
I believe two processes are involved in
creative enterprise. The primary element of productive thought is reason.
productive thought is sufficiently compelling and elegant, the effect is
genius. When, within this process, the sudden introduction of unconscious
factors serves as a catalyst to logic, the process becomes what I called
creative. Pure reason can result in genius, but the creative process need not
be pure reason.
Both processes are glad additions to the human condition.