The psychology of creativity and creative thinking

Even today, the beginning of research and studies in the field of knowledge of creativity can be considered very recent.

Early contributions from authors such as good, Osborn He Torrance they date from the sixties, so that the practical application of everything at the theoretical level in schools is still scarce and insufficient.

What is creativity?

From the field of psychology experts who have addressed this issue define creativity as a process of making original products by unorthodox means, from the information available and for the purpose of problem solving or self-realization of the individual himself (as far as this allows for the development of personal intellectual capacities).

like that, Guiford highlight the characteristic skills of creative individuals: fluidity, flexibility, originality and divergent thinking (on the other hand, it highlighted the differences between creativity and intelligence). In the 90s, Csickszentmihalyi he defined creativity as a state of consciousness to solve problems, in which three elements operate: the field (place or discipline where it occurs), the person (who performs the creative act) and the domain (social group of ‘experts). Finally, the most recent contribution of Mayers affirms the existence of five components of creativity: competence, imaginative thinking, daring, intrinsic motivation and a creative environment.

On the other hand, it is necessary to underline the subjective character associated with the creative capacity. This fact may have facilitated the generation of certain misconceptions about the concept of creativity, giving it an connotation of gifting, cognitive disorganization or being something necessarily linked to a high cultural level as a prerequisite. Thus, today there seems to be a consensus to consider creativity as a human potential, which all individuals can access without discernment. According to the latter, all social, cultural and historical influences become the main factors associated with the development of creativity.

How to develop creativity?

In order to define the concept of creativity and the methodology that can be put in place for its development and empowerment among schoolchildren, De Bono proposed as essential elements of creative thinking freedom of expression, absence of inhibitions, avoidance of critical evaluative judgments. and the stimulation of new ideas during the creative process.

Among the techniques used by this author, the following stand out, which promote the capacity for analysis, synthesis, the application of logical reasoning and decision-making:

  • Consider all factors (CTF).
  • Use positive, negative, and interesting reasoning (PNI).
  • Contemplate other points of view (ON V).
  • Evaluate the consequences and sequelae (CS).
  • Consider the possibilities and opportunities (PO).
  • Remember the basic priorities (PB).
  • Clearly define goals, objectives and objectives (PMO).
  • Look for alternatives, possibilities and options (APO).

Other techniques studied correspond to the findings on methodologies such as the morphological analysis of Zwicky, Crawford’s Attribute List, Osborn’s Storm of Ideas, De Bono’s Divergent Thinking, Synectics or Psychodrama, among others.

Related article: “The 14 Keys to Boosting Creativity”

Convergent Thinking and Divergent Thinking

In the human response to the environment, two different modes of cognitive reaction can be differentiated, as scientific research has shown: convergent thinking and divergent thinking. The latter is also called primary, lateral, autistic or multiple thinking and is characterized by not being subject to consciousness or following logical or simpler paths, having a highly symbolic character and being associated with fantastic or creative thinking.

In contrast, convergent thinking, also referred to as secondary, vertical, realistic, or sequential, works in the opposite way to the above: it works consciously and follows the connections between the elements in a way that is logical and more oriented towards external reality.

Cognitive, affective and environmental factors in the creative act

There are three main areas of influence that affect the nature of the creative process: cognitive, emotional and environmental.

Cognitive factors

Cognitive factors refer to the set of procedures involved in both receiving and processing information which is presented to the subject.

The following cognitive processes have been found in the development of creative ability:


It refers to entering the information presented. Strengthening creativity requires a total opening of the senses which allows an optimal reception of external stimuli that facilitate the possibility of creation of the subject. It is important to be free from prejudices and inflexible evaluations, as well as a clear ability to define problems and tasks to be solved.

The development process

It is linked to the conceptualization and delimitation of the relationship established between the different data. Its main feature is the multi-associative ability to flexibly and simultaneously process different types of information.

Different perspectives can be taken to assess development processes, such as: thinking styles (divergent or creative and converging), thinking skills (fluidity, flexibility and originality to offer original or new answers) and thinking strategies (unconscious ways of organizing information according to the utility observed in its implementation in past situations).

Affective factors

As for the affective factors, we can distinguish certain elements that appear as

for the mobilization of creative potential:

  • Openness to experience: The degree of curiosity or interest in the context that surrounds the individual, which maintains an open and positive attitude towards external experiences and experiences them in a particular and alternative way.
  • Ambiguity tolerance: The ability to remain calm in confused or unresolved situations by avoiding the rush of an impulsive response.
  • Positive self-esteem: acceptance of oneself and one’s own particularities (strengths and weaknesses).
  • Willingness to work: Possess a strong motivation for the accomplishment of the tasks or the objectives initiated.
  • Motivation to create: Have a strong impulse and an interest in creating your own creations or participating in other people.

Environmental factors

Finally, environmental factors refer to the conditions of the physical and social context that facilitate the development and updating of creative potential. The environmental characteristics that promote creative expression are primarily self-confidence, the safety of others, and an assessment of individual differences in adaptation.

In addition, it has been shown how socially empathetic, authentic, congruent and acceptable environments allow the individual to undertake new projects while minimizing fears of potential or unknown risks.

The stages of the creative process

The contributions Wallas made in the middle of the last century from his work which sought to sequence the process that occurs in all creative reasoning differentiated four main, flexible and open phases: preparation, incubation, lighting and verification.

  • the preparation: The exhaustive formulation (and reformulation) of the problem is carried out by taking all possible directions for its resolution.
  • incubation: In order to be able to assimilate new approaches which do not disturb the clarity of the reasoning, there is a moment of pause and distance in the attempts to solve the task.
  • lighting: Phase in which the creative product is suddenly or by alternative associations between the elements available.
  • verification: At this point, the implementation of the found solution is carried out, then an evaluation and verification of the applied process is carried out with the aim of finding the strengths and weaknesses.

Dimensions of creativity

In order to achieve satisfactory individual development in the field of education a number of dimensions of creativity have been established as components of the maturation process, the link between them must be interactive, dynamic and integrative.

These dimensions are as follows:

  • Axiological: Need to know the reasons that have motivated human beings to create certain values.
  • affective: Refers to the identification of cognitive products and values ​​them as such.
  • cognitive: Relating to functionality and thinking ability.
  • labor: Defined by the development and transformation of cognitive products.
  • playful: Creativity has a fun component.
  • participatory: It is linked to the collective application of creativity allowing joint work between different students.
  • communicative: Creative reasoning processes facilitate dialogue, the ability to argue and understand the ideas generated.
  • Urban: Due to the spatial proximity between individuals, creative and dynamic tensions arise that fuel them.

Obstacles to the development of creativity

Obviously, not all students are able to develop creative responses of the same intensity to a task. Thus, there seems to be a consensus among subject matter experts that there is a set of factors that act as drawbacks or obstacles that prevent students from internalizing this creative skill.

Among others, they can stand out: a coercive environment that does not allow the spontaneous expression of ideas, the tendency to judge and criticize different points of view, to focus exclusively on highlighting the mistakes made, to s’ relying on inflexible and stereotypical methodologies, maintaining a distant attitude towards others, preventing respect for the uniqueness of individuals by lowering their self-confidence and encouraging fear of ridicule, etc.

It seems that if at birth all human beings have the same capacity to develop their creativity considerably, the existence of postnatal environmental factors plays a discouraging role for this creative capacity, Apply the practices described in the previous paragraph. We must therefore be aware to what extent they interfere with these practices for all students, because they limit the expression of an alternative, original and new way of thinking.

To conclude

Creativity becomes a capacity that arises from the confluence of rather environmental, external and acquired factors. It is therefore necessary to promote its maximum development from the family and educational domain at the same time.

To do this, one has to overcome various barriers related to prejudices, critiques and negative evaluations applied to alternative and / or unusual ways of solving a given task, exhibiting reasoning, etc., which seem traditionally socially entrenched.

bibliographical references

  • Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1998). Creativity, one approach. Mexico.
  • De Bono, E. (1986): Lateral Thinking. Spain: Editions Paidós.
  • Guilford, JP, Strom, RD (1978). Creativity and education. Buenos Aires: paid editions.

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