Summary and Keywords
Creativity is perhaps what most differentiates humans from other species. Understanding creativity is particularly important in times of accelerated cultural and environmental change, such as the present, in which novel approaches and perspectives are needed. The study of creativity is an exciting area that brings together many different branches of research: cognitive psychology, social psychology, personality psychology, developmental psychology, organizational psychology, clinical psychology, neuroscience, mathematical models, and computer simulations. The creative process is thought to involve the capacity to shift between divergent and convergent modes of thought in response to task demands. Divergent thought is conventionally characterized as the kind of thinking needed for open-ended tasks, and it is measured by the ability to generate multiple solutions, while convergent thought is commonly characterized as the kind of thinking needed for tasks in which there is only one correct solution. More recently, divergent thought has been conceived of as reflecting on the task from unconventional contexts or perspectives, while convergent thought has been conceived of as reflecting on it from conventional contexts or perspectives. Personality traits correlated with creativity include openness to experience, tolerance of ambiguity, impulsivity, and self-confidence. Evidence that creativity is linked with affective disorders is mixed. Neuroscientific research on creativity using electroencephalography (EEG) or functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) suggests that creativity is associated with a loosening of cognitive control and decreased arousal. It has been shown that the distributed, content-addressable structure of associative memory is conducive to bringing task-relevant items to mind without the need for explicit search. Tangible evidence of human creativity dates back to the earliest stone tools devised over three million years ago, with the Middle-Upper Paleolithic marking the onset of art, science, and religion, and another surge of creativity in the present. Past and current areas of controversy concern the relative contributions of expertise, chance, and intuition, whether the emphasis should be on process versus product, whether creativity is a domain-specific or a domain-general function, the extent to which creativity is correlated with affective disorders, and whether divergent thinking entails the generation of multiple ideas or the honing of a single initially ambiguous mental representation that may manifest as different external outputs. Promising areas for further psychological study of creativity include computational modeling, research on the biological basis of creativity, and studies that track specific creative ideation processes over time.
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