Serendipity

Creativity is a mental and social process involving the generation of new ideas or concepts, or new associations of the creative mind between existing ideas or concepts. An alternative conception of creativness is that it is simply the act of making something new. From a scientific point of view, the products of creative thought, sometimes referred to as divergent thought, are usually considered to have both originality and appropriateness.

Creativity has been attributed variously to divine intervention, cognitive processes, the social environment, personality traits, chance, accident and serendipity. It has been associated with genius, mental illness and humour. Some say it is a trait we are born with. Others say it can be taught with the application of simple techniques.

Although intuitively a simple phenomenon, it is in fact quite complex. It has been studied from the perspectives of behavioural psychology, social psychology, psychometrics, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, philosophy, history, economics, design research, business, and management, among others. The studies have covered everyday creativity, exceptional creativity and even artificial creativity. Unlike many phenomena in science, there is no single, authoritative perspective or definition of creativity. And unlike many phenomena in psychology, there is no standardized measurement technique.

Although popularly associated with art and literature, it is also an essential part of innovation and invention and is important in professions such as business, economics, architecture, industrial design, science and engineering. Despite, or perhaps because of, the ambiguity and multi-dimensional nature of creativity, entire industries have been spawned from the pursuit of creative ideas and the development of creativity techniques.

Some researchers believe that creativity is the outcome of the same cognitive processes as intelligence, and is only judged as creativity in terms of its consequences, such as when the outcome of cognitive processes happens to produce something novel, a view which Perkins has termed the “nothing special” hypothesis.

A very popular model proposed by Ellis Paul Torrance holds that a high degree of intelligence appears to be a necessary but not sufficient condition for high creativity. This means that, in a general sample, there will be a positive correlation between creativity and intelligence, but this correlation will not be found if only a sample of the most highly intelligent people are assessed. Research into the threshold hypothesis, however, has produced mixed results ranging from enthusiastic support to refutation and rejection.

Some students of creativity have emphasized an element of chance in the creative process. Linus Pauling, asked at a public lecture how one creates scientific theories, replied that one must endeavor to come up with many ideas, then discard the useless ones.

Another adequate definition of creativity is that it is an assumptions-breaking process. Creative ideas are often generated when one discards preconceived assumptions and attempts a new approach or method that might seem to others unthinkable.

Creativity has been associated with right or forehead brain activity or even specifically with lateral thinking. According to some researchers, positive emotions increase the number of cognitive elements available for association and the number of elements that are relevant to the problem.

In 2005, Alice Flaherty presented a three factor model of the creative drive. Drawing from evidence in brain imaging, drug studies and lesion analysis, she described the creative drive as resulting from an interaction of the frontal lobes, the temporal lobes, and dopamine from the limbic system. The frontal lobes can be seen as responsible for idea generation, and the temporal lobes for idea editing and evaluation. Abnormalities in the frontal lobe, such as depression or anxiety, generally decrease creativity, while abnormalities in the temporal lobe often increase creativity. High activity in the temporal lobe typically inhibits activity in the frontal lobe, and vice versa. High dopamine levels increase general arousal and goal directed behaviors and reduce latent inhibition, and all three effects increase the drive to generate ideas.

Particularly strong links have been identified between creativity and mood disorders, particularly bipolar disorder and depressive disorder. In Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament, Kay Redfield Jamison summarizes studies of mood disorder rates in writers, poets and artists. She also explores research that identifies mood disorders in such famous writers and artists as Ernest Hemingway (who shot himself after electroconvulsive treatment), Virginia Woolf (who drowned herself when she felt a depressive episode coming on), composer Robert Schumann (who died in a mental institution), and even the famed visual artist Michelangelo.

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