Creativity Explained (maybe)

Over the years, different schools of psychology have attempted to explain the origins of creativity. Here is a thumbnail sketch of the different views. viagra generic

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1. Psychoanalytic

Freud wrote that creativity was a result of sublimation (redirecting) of sexual/libidinal energy into artistic pursuits. His ideas are still influential but, even if you buy the basic idea of sublimation, this idea doesn’t hold very well because: A.) uncreative people also sublimate energy and don’t become artists; B.) the concept cannot differentiate between the good artist and the ineffective one. However, he drew attention to the individual personality, motivation, and directing one’s energy.

2. Behaviorist

Behaviorists care less about the unconscious and more about behavior. They agree with psychoanalytic thinkers that individuals engage in creative activity to secure material gain (satisfaction, esteem, cash, etc), whether directly or sublimated. The number one behaviorist, B. F. Skinner saw creativity in terms of positive reinforcement (fame, cash). More recently, behavioral psychologists have come to talk about creativity in terms of intrinsic motivation.

3. Intrinsic motivation

Theresa Amabile called attention to creative solutions that occur more easily during play or pleasure than in “judged” situations where the scope is narrowed. She says that absence of evaluation leads to creative solutions. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes flow, that state where people feel fully alive and involved, and says that people will go back to attain that state again and again, willing to endure discomfort or pain. This helps explain why people tolerate frustration in pursuit of their art/science/sport.

I find the Behavioral explanations lacking – we all know people (and we may be those people) who do not get quick and easy positive reinforcement and stick with our art, sport, belief. I’ve got to vote with the Psychoanalytic and Intrinsic Motivation folks on this one.

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