The concept of creativity through history

Creativity is a human psychological phenomenon that has favorably served the evolution of our species, just like intelligence. In fact, for a long time they have come to confuse.

currently it is argued that creativity and intelligence are closely related, But which are two different dimensions of our psychic world; highly creative people are not necessarily smarter, nor those with high IQs more creative.

Part of the confusion over what creativity is is due to the fact that, for centuries creativity has been covered with a mystical-religious halo. Therefore, practically until the 20th century, its study was not approached scientifically.

However, since ancient times it has fascinated us and we have made an effort to try to explain its essence through philosophy and, more recently, by applying the scientific method, in particular from psychology.

Creativity in Antiquity

Greek philosophers tried to explain creativity by divinity. They understood that creativity was a kind of supernatural inspiration, a whim of the gods. The creative person was seen as an empty container that a divine being filled with inspiration needed to create products or ideas.

For example, Plato argued that the poet was a sacred being, possessed by the gods, who could only create what his muses dictated to him (Plato, 1871). From this point of view, creativity was a gift accessible to a privileged few, which is an aristocratic vision that will last until the Renaissance.

Creativity in the Middle Ages

The Middle Ages, considered an obscurantist period for human development and understanding, aroused little interest in the study of creativity. It is not considered an era of creative splendorSo there hasn’t been a lot of effort trying to figure out the mechanics of creation either.

In this period, man was completely subjected to the interpretation of the biblical scriptures and all his creative production was oriented to pay homage to God. A curious fact of this time is the fact that many creators gave up signing their works, which testifies to the denial of their own identity.

Creativity in the modern age

At this stage, the divine conception of creativity fades to give way to the idea of ​​the hereditary trait. Simultaneously, a humanist conception emerges, in which man is no longer a being abandoned to his destiny or divine designs, but co-author of his own future.

During the Renaissance, the taste for aesthetics and art was resumed, the author rediscovered the paternity of his works and of some other Hellenic values. It is a period when the classic is reborn. Artistic production is growing dramatically, and as a result, interest in studying the mind of the creative individual is also increasing.

The debate on creativity, at present, focuses on the duality “nature versus culture” (biology or parenthood), although without further empirical support. One of the first treatises on human ingenuity belongs to Juan Huarte de San Juan, Spanish doctor who in 1575 published his work “Examination of I conceive for ciencias”, precursor of Differential Psychology and Professional Orientation. At the beginning of the 18th century, thanks to figures such as Copernicus, Galileo, Hobbes, Locke and Newton, confidence in science grows as faith in human ability to solve problems through mental effort grows. Humanism is consolidated.

The first relevant research of modernity on the creative process takes place in 1767 by the hand of William Duff, who will analyze the qualities of the original genius, differentiating it from talent. Duff argues that talent doesn’t come with innovation, while original genius does. This author’s opinions are very similar to recent scientific contributions, in fact he was the first to point out the biopsychosocial nature of the act of creating, demystifying and advancing the biopsychosocial theory of creativity by two centuries (Dacey and Lennon, 1998). .

On the contrary, during this same period, and fueling the debate, Kant understood creativity as something innate, A gift of nature which cannot be formed and which constitutes an intellectual trait of the individual.

Creativity in postmodernity

The first empirical approaches to the study of creativity did not take place until the second half of the 19th century., By openly rejecting the divine conception of creativity. It was also influenced by the fact that at this time psychology began its separation from philosophy, to become an experimental science, so that the positivist effort in the study of human behavior was increased.

During the nineteenth century, the concept of hereditary trait predominated. Creativity was a hallmark of men and it took some time to assume that there could be creative women. This idea was reinforced by medicine, with different discoveries about the heritability of physical traits. An exciting debate between Lamarck and Darwin over genetic inheritance has monopolized scientific attention for much of the century. The former argued that learned traits could be passed down between consecutive generations, while Darwin (1859) showed that genetic changes are not so immediateNeither the result of practice or learning, but proceed by random mutations during the phylogeny of the species, for which long periods of time are required.

Postmodernity in the study of creativity could be placed in the work of Galton (1869) on individual differences, strongly influenced by Darwinian evolution and the associationist current. Galton focused on studying the hereditary trait, ignoring psychosocial variables. From him stand out two influential contributions for subsequent research: the idea of ​​free association and how this operates between the conscious thing and the unconscious, which Sigmund Freud later developed from his psychoanalytic perspective, and the ” application of statistical techniques to the study of individual differences, which they make him an author’s bridge between speculative study and empirical study of creativity.

The consolidation phase of psychology

Despite Galton’s interesting work, nineteenth-century and early-twentieth-century psychology focused on simpler psychological processes, following the trajectory marked by Behaviorism, which rejected mentalism or the study of unobservable processes.

Behavioral domination postponed the study of creativity until the second half of the twentieth century, with the exception of a few surviving lines from positivism, psychoanalysis and Gestalt.

The Gestalt vision of creativity

The Gestalt provided a phenomenological conception of creativity. He began in the second half of the 19th century, opposing Galton’s associationism, although his influence was not noticed until well into the 20th century. Gestaltists have argued that creativity is not a simple association of ideas in a new and different way. Von Ehrenfels first used the term gestalt (mental pattern or form) in 1890 and based his postulates on the concept of innate ideas, as thoughts that originate entirely from the mind and do not depend on the senses for to exist.

Gestaltists argue that creative thinking is the formation and alteration of Gestalt, the elements have complex relationships forming a structure with a certain stability, so they are not simple associations of elements. They explain creativity by focusing on the structure of the problem, Stating that the creator’s mind has the ability to move from one more stable structure to another. Thus, a glimpse, or a spontaneous new understanding of the problem (“AHA! Or eureka!” Phenomenon), occurs when a mental structure is suddenly transformed into a more stable structure.

This means that creative solutions are usually obtained by looking in a new way at an existing gestalt, that is, when we change the position from which we analyze the problem. According to the Gestalt, when we get a new point of view on the whole, instead of reorganizing its elements, creativity emerges.

Creativity according to psychodynamics

Psychodynamics made the first major effort of the twentieth century to the study of creativity. From psychoanalysis, creativity is understood as the phenomenon which emerges from the tension between conscious reality and the unconscious impulses of the individual. Freud argues that writers and artists produce creative ideas to express their unconscious desires in a socially acceptable way.Art is therefore a compensatory phenomenon.

She helps demystify creativity, arguing that it is not a product of muses or gods, nor a supernatural gift, but that the experience of creative enlightenment is simply the passage from the unconscious to the conscious.

The contemporary study of creativity

During the second half of the twentieth century, and following the tradition initiated by Guilford in 1950, creativity has been an important object of study in differential psychology and cognitive psychology, but not exclusively. In both traditions, the approach has been fundamentally empirical, using historiometry, ideographic studies, psychometry or meta-analytic studies, among other methodological tools.

Currently, the approach is multidimensional. Aspects as diverse as personality, cognition, psychosocial influences, genetics or psychopathology are analyzed, to name just a few lines, while being multidisciplinary, as many fields are interested, beyond psychology. This is the case with Business Studies, where creativity arouses great interest in its relationship with innovation and competitiveness.

like that, in the last decade, research on creativity has multiplied, And the supply of training and qualification programs has increased dramatically. The interest in understanding it is such that research extends beyond academia and occupies all kinds of institutions, including government institutions. His study transcends individual, even collective or organizational analysis, to approach, for example, creative societies or creative classes, with indices to measure them, such as: the euro-creativity index (Florida and Tinagli, 2004); Creative Cities Index (Hartley et al., 2012); The Global Creativity Index (The Martin Prosperity Institute, 2011) or the Creativity Index in Bilbao and Biscay (Landry, 2010).

From classical Greece to the present day, and despite the great efforts that we continue to devote to its analysis, we haven’t even managed to find a universal definition of creativity, so we are still a long way from understanding its essence. Perhaps with new approaches and technologies applied to psychological study, as is the case with promising cognitive neuroscience, we can uncover the keys to this complex and intriguing mental phenomenon, and ultimately the 21st century will become the historical testimony of such a milestone.

Bibliographical references:

  • Dacey, JS and Lennon, KH (1998). Understand creativity. The interaction of biological, psychological and social factors. (1st edition) .. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Darwin, C. (1859). On the origin of the species by natural selection. London: Murray.
  • De Sant Joan, JH (1575). Engineering exam for science (2003-Dig.). Madrid: universal virtual library.
  • Duff, W. (1767). Essay on the original genius (vol. 53). London, UK.
  • Florida, R. and Tinagli, I. (2004). Europe in the creative age. United Kingdom: Software Industry Center & Demos.
  • Freud, S. (1958). The relationship of the poet with the dream of the day. About creativity and the unconscious. Harper & Row Publishers.
  • Galton, F. (1869). Hereditary engineering: an investigation into its laws and consequences (ed. 2000). London, UK: MacMillan and Co.
  • Guilford, JP (1950). Creativity. The American psychologist.
  • Hartley, J., Potts, J., MacDonald, T., Erkunt, C. & Kufleitner, C. (2012). 2012 CCI-CCI Creative Cities Index.
  • Landry, C. (2010). Creativity in Bilbao and Biscay. Spain.

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