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About Creativity

About creativity

Creativity is one of the most debated topics nowadays not only in the academia but also in many applied sectors of society as well as in the everyday, in schools, homes, at the workplace, etc. It is widely assumed that creativity is a positive quality, the capacity to respond to challenges and solve problems in novel ways and therefore something we need to ‘have’ and to foster in both children and adults. However, much of our understanding of creativity is still dependent on certain ideologies or paradigmatic views that not only obscure the social nature of this phenomenon but also deprive us of the practical means to enhance it.

Creativity and the genius - the He-paradigm approach

An old and pervasive association is that between creativity and the genius, something that defines a He-paradigm approach. Historically, the genius was characterised by a special relationship with divinity (or the muses) and gradually, especially after the Renaissance, it became embedded in the biological (genes and heredity). The Romanticism and Enlightenment movements contributed to bringing the arts and sciences, respectively, to the foreground as the primary locus of creativity. This perspective, equating creativity with innate talent and eminence, promotes an individualistic understanding that is both elitist (only a few people can attain the status of genius, traditionally male) and exclusivist (the genius stands aside from society). The He-paradigm implicitly assumes there is a gap between creators and their society and culture. The latter is seen as outside forces that creators struggle against in their effort to express themselves. As such, associations between creativity and pathology are very common and constitute a growing field of interest among specialists.

Creativity as a potential for each and every individual - the I-paradigm

Psychology, especially after the 1950s, strived to enlarge this perspective and ‘democratise’ creativity. In the I-paradigm, specific for this discipline, creativity exists at least as a potential for each and every individual, although its expression varies from little c creations (acts of personal creativity) to Bic C creativity (acts of historical importance). Psychologists define creativity mostly in terms of the person (his or her personality traits and cognitive mechanisms), the process (assumed to encompass different stages, with a focus on idea generation), and the product (reflecting the double criteria of novelty / originality and value). A series of psychometric tests have been developed to measure creative potential, most of them starting from an association between creativity and divergent thinking. Despite this increased interest for both theory and methodology, the I-paradigm remains individualistic in its understanding of creativity. It still locates this phenomenon ‘inside the head’ and does little to acknowledge the social and material world creators individuals exist and create within.

Creativity as a relational quality - the We-paradigm

This critique led to the emergence, after the 1980s, of another paradigmatic view: the We-paradigm. According to this perspective, creativity is not an individual but a relational quality, it does not rely on the abilities of the person alone but on the interaction between creators, audiences, and their physical environment. Bringing back sociality and materiality into the equation of creativity is a primary task for cultural psychologists. The cultural psychology of creativity considers creative acts in a tetradic framework including self, other, new and existing artefacts. It promotes ecological studies of creativity and emic definitions that rely on how people themselves define creativity within different contexts. The cultural psychology of creativity promoted by the ICCPC adopts this approach and focuses on creativity as action, as meaning-making and as development. In the spirit of the We-paradigm, it not only aims to study creativity as a social and cultural phenomenon, but also to encourage inter-disciplinary and collaborative work between scholars as well as scholars and practitioners from Europe and worldwide.