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Wednesday, 19 September 2012 11:05

Making Sense of Creativity from a Psychological Perspective

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Why is creativity so difficult to pin down?

Can it be evaluated?

Can anyone be creative?

What's the relationship between genius and creativity?

These are some of the questions addressed in this article.

Why is creativity difficult to pin down?

There are several reasons why it's difficult to get a handle on creativity. One is because it's a complex and fuzzy concept, yet it's no more complex or fuzzy than work or play which we can happily discuss without the kind of unease which creativity can engender. Instead of trying to envisage creativity in its entirety, a popular solution suggested by Rhodes (1961) is to break it down into the '4 Ps of creativity': person, product, process, and press [environment] – a strategy which can be helpful even when considering how these various aspects of creativity interact.

There is also disagreement about the level of achievement which can legitimately be called creative. This ranges from the view that virtually everything invented can be called creative (Fabun, 1968) to the view that only high level achievements deserve this accolade (Ausubel, 1978). Arguably, a more useful approach has been adopted by Ghiselin (1963) who makes a distinction between higher creativity which changes how we see the world, and lower creativity as when undertaking normal research.

An excessively free use of the terms creative and creativity can also be problematic according to Stein (1983) who complained that they were being used for '... paradigmatic shifts, big and little inventions, new and improved products, creative cookery... and for creative financing – usually for questionable deals'.

There are at least three other reasons why creativity can seem like a slippery concept to handle. These include:

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Dr Marilyn Fryer

Marilyn is a Director of the Creativity Centre UK Ltd, and Chief Executive of the Creativity Centre Educational Trust - a voluntary role. A chartered psychologist and author, her work has been presented and published internationally.

Marilyn enjoys talking about creativity education in the UK. This was the theme of her keynote presentations at the Annual Meeting of the Japanese Association of Educational Psychology in Shizuoka, Japan; the Torrance Lecture Series, Athens, Georgia; and the International Forum on Creativity at the opening of the Nobel Prize Centennial Exhibition in Kuala Lumpur where she was also a panel member for Forging the Creative Agenda for Malaysia. Marilyn has also undertaken consultancy on the development of creativity for various government bodies in the UK and overseas.

Before co-founding the Creativity Centre with Caroline, Marilyn spent much of her career in the university sector undertaking research and teaching creativity education, developmental and cognitive psychology. At Leeds Metropolitan University, where she was Reader in Psychology, she set up the cross-university Centre for Innovation and Creativity (CIC) as well as devising and delivering a series of undergraduate and postgraduate courses in applied creativity, supervising research and undertaking her own research into creativity in education.

One of the things Marilyn most enjoys is meeting people from all over the world and collaborating with them to create publications and learning resources in the area of creativity and human development, which is one reason why she enjoys being an editor of this journal.


  • Comment Link Website Editor Sunday, 09 December 2012 13:55 posted by Website Editor

    Thanks Tom, I've corrected it. Well spotted!

  • Comment Link Dr Tom Bradburn Saturday, 08 December 2012 21:54 posted by Dr Tom Bradburn


    I spotted a mistake in your paper - look at the year quoted -
    Fryer & Collings, 1991a, 199b


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