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Ability or power to create: to bring into existence, to invest with a new form, to produce through imaginative skill, or to make or bring into existence something new.
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(PSYCHOLOGY) that aspect of INTELLIGENCE characterized by originality in thinking and problem solving. Creative ability involves the use of divergent thinking, with thoughts diverging towards solutions in a number of directions. Tests of creativity typically require the generation of as many appropriate responses as possible to a simple situation (e.g. unusual uses, word association). Positive correlations exist between intelligence tests and creativity tests over the full range of intelligence. However, tests of creativity do not predict intelligence within a narrower range of high IQ (INTELLIGENCE QUOTIENT) scores, nor do they predict creative achievements in artistic, literary or scientific fields.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



activity that engenders something qualitatively new, something that has never existed before. Any field of endeavor in which something new is created, discovered, or invented may be a source of creative activity: science, industrial engineering, the arts, politics, and other fields. Creativity has both psychological and philosophical aspects. The psychology of creativity studies the process, or the psychological mechanism, of creativity as the subjective act of an individual. Philosophy considers the essential nature of creativity, which has been viewed differently in different historical periods.

In ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, creativity was associated with finite, transitory, and changeable existence, rather than with the infinite and eternal. The contemplation of the eternal was placed above any other activity, including creativity. Artistic creativity was originally viewed as one type of constructive activity among many others, such as handicrafts. Later, particularly in Plato, a concept of Eros was developed as a unique, obsessive striving by man to attain a higher, or rational, awareness of the world; one factor of this awareness was creativity.

In medieval philosophy, views on creativity were associated with the concept of god as an individual freely creating the world. Creativity was thus regarded as an act of the will, evoking being from nonbeing. St. Augustine as well emphasized the importance of will in the human personality. He saw human creativity primarily as the creation of history: it is in history that finite human beings help fulfill the divine plan for the world. It is not so much reason as the will and a conscious act of faith that relate man to god. Consequently, individual actions and decisions become important ways of participating in god’s creation of the world. Creativity is thus regarded as something unique and unrepeatable. Moreover, in St. Augustine’s view, the scope of creativity lies primarily within the areas of history, morality, and religion; artistic and scientific creativity are of secondary importance.

A spirit of man’s limitless creative potentialities was prevalent during the Renaissance. Creativity was now perceived chiefly as artistic creativity, whose essence was considered to be creative contemplation. A cult of genius as the bearer of the creative principle originated, as well as an interest in the act of creativity and in the artist’s personality. This interpretation of the creative process is characteristic of the modern period. The tendency to regard history as the product of solely human creativity became more pronounced. The Italian philosopher G. Vico, for example, was concerned with man as the creator of language, mores, art, and philosophy, that is, as essentially the creator of history.

English empirical philosophy tended to treat creativity as a successful but largely chance combination of existing elements. This was the content of the theory of cognition as propounded by F. Bacon and particularly by T. Hobbes, J. Locke, and D. Hume. Creativity was thus regarded as akin to invention. A comprehensive conception of creativity was devised in the 18th century by I. Kant, who analyzed creative activity in his theory of the productive capacity of the imagination. Kant viewed the imagination as a link between the diversity of man’s sensory impressions and the concepts of man’s reason, since the imagination possesses both the graphic clarity of impressions and the ability to synthesize concepts. The transcendental imagination is thus the basis of both contemplation and activity. Therefore, creativity is an essential factor of cognition.

Kant’s theory was developed by F. W. J. von Schelling, who viewed imagination’s ability to create as a combination of conscious and unconscious activity. Those persons who possess this ability to the highest degree—geniuses—create while in a state of inspiration, unconsciously. The creativity of geniuses is similar to that of nature, with the difference that this objective (unconscious) process takes place within man’s subjective state and, consequently, is modified by his free will. To Schelling and the Jena romantics, creativity, and especially the creativity of the artist and philosopher, is the highest form of human activity, bringing man in touch with the absolute. The romantic cult of creativity and genius reached its height simultaneously with the growth of interest in cultural history as the product of past creativity (F. von Schlegel and A. W. von Schlegel).

The idealist philosophy of the late 19th century and the 20th-century has counterposed creativity to mechanical and technical activity. Whereas the philosophy of life contrasts technical rationalism and the creative natural principle, existentialism emphasizes the spiritual and personal nature of creativity. In the philosophy of life, the most complete concept of creativity was advanced by H. Bergson (Creative Evolution, 1907; Russian translation, 1909). To Bergson, creativity, or the continuous birth of the new, is the essence of life and is something taking place objectively. In nature, it is perfected in the processes of birth, growth, and maturation; in human consciousness, it occurs as the continuous emergence of new images and experiences. This view opposes creativity to the subjective technical activity of construction, which merely combines what is already known. Even more distinctly than Bergson, L. Klages contrasted the creative natural principle of the soul to the spiritual and intellectual principle, which is technically oriented. In their study of the creativity of culture and history, the proponents of the philosophy of life, including W. Dilthey, G. Simmel, and J. Ortega y Gasset, emphasized creativity’s uniqueness, individuality, and unrepeatability.

In existentialism, the bearer of the creative principle is the personality as existence, that is, as an irrational principle of freedom, an ecstatic escape from natural necessity and rational expediency and a going beyond nature, society, and the world’s objective reality. The creative ecstasy, according to N. A. Berdiaev (The Meaning of Creativity, Moscow, 1916) and the early M. Heidegger, is the most satisfying form of existence.

Unlike existentialism and the philosophy of life, such 20th-century philosophic trends as pragmatism, instrumentalism, and related variants of neopositivism regard creativity from a onesided and pragmatic viewpoint. Creativity is seen primarily as invention, whose aim is to solve a given problem in a given situation (J. Dewey, How We Think, 1910). Continuing the tradition of English empiricism, instrumentalism regarded creativity as a successful combination of ideas that leads to the solution of a problem. Another variant of the intellectualist interpretation of creativity is represented in part by neorealism and in part by phenomenology (S. Alexander, A. N. Whitehead, E. Husserl, N. Hartmann). In their approach to creativity, most thinkers of this type were oriented not toward the natural sciences, as Dewey and P. Bridgman had been, but toward mathematics (Husserl, Whitehead), viewed as a pure science. The basis of creativity was regarded not as activity, as in instrumentalism, but as intellectual contemplation. This approach to creativity was thus converging most closely with that of Platonism.


The Marxist approach to creativity is in contrast to idealist and metaphysical concepts of creativity. It asserts that creativity is a human activity that transforms nature and society in accordance with man’s aims and needs and in conformity to the objective laws of reality. As a constructive activity, creativity is unrepeatable in terms of performance and results. It is original and is unique in terms of society and history, not merely in terms of the individual. What is created does not result from programmed or mechanically repeated activity; it is a manifestation of the productive activity of man’s consciousness, a consciousness that, according to V. I. Lenin, “not only reflects the objective world, but creates it” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 29, p. 194).

Dialectical materialism rejects the viewpoint which asserts that nature also creates. Nature manifests a process of development, not one of creativity. Creativity always presupposes the existence and action of a creator—the agent of creative activity. Evidently, biological forms and prerequisites for creativity exist among the higher animals as well, but creativity is expressed only by man as a socially developed being.

Creativity always takes place under specific social and historical conditions, which profoundly influence it. Creativity is closely linked with the environment and with previously created cultural forms, whose complex network includes the agent of the creativity. Essential conditions for the development of scientific, scholarly, and artistic creativity are productive discussion, the exchange and conflict of opinions, and freedom of criticism. For new ideas to develop, it is necessary to go beyond existing, familiar theories and their methodologies and to adopt a critical attitude toward tradition. The dogmatization of an attained level of knowledge retards the development of science. For example, the genius of Aristotle brought classical scientific culture to a high level, but when his authority as a thinker became absolute, his theories were dogmatized, thus hindering the development of a number of branches of knowledge for centuries. Discoveries in science are most commonly made by persons not bound by the authority of transient truths.

Lenin wrote that for creativity “greater scope must undoubtedly be allowed for personal initiative, individual inclination, thought and fantasy” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 12, p. 101). One of the most important principles of communism is the assurance of the full development of the personality as the main prerequisite of creativity. Communism establishes the conditions for free, creative labor, which, according to Engels, “is the highest enjoyment known to us” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 2, p. 351). The socialist transformation of society has laid the foundation for implementing this ideal, as evidenced by the development of production, science, culture, and education in the USSR and other socialist countries, as well as the great number of inventions, the movement for the rationalization of production, and the creative amateur activities of the toiling masses in the arts.

In addition to objective factors, subjective factors are of great importance in the creative process. These include inner motivation and a productive and well-developed creative imagination, in whose formation art plays an essential role.


In psychology, creativity is studied primarily in two aspects: as the psychological process of creating something new, and as the aggregate of personality traits essential for this process.

The first studies of creativity as a process were based on subjective accounts by artists and scientists, who described their inspiration and their creative torments. In such accounts, several prominent naturalists, including H. L. F. von Helmholtz, H. J. Poincaré, and W. B. Cannon, distinguished several stages in the creative process. These stages proceeded from the origin of a design to the unpredictable moment when the new idea emerged in the consciousness. The English scientist J. Wallace (1924) divided the creative process into four phases: preparation, incubation (of the idea), illumination, and verification. Since the main phases of this process (incubation and illumination) are not subject to the conscious volitional control, Wallace’s view served as an argument in favor of theories maintaining that subconscious and irrational factors were decisive in creativity. However, experimental psychology has shown that in the creative process the unconscious and the conscious, the intuitive and the rational, supplement each other. Since the individual is engrossed in his goal, he is the person least capable of self-observation. He has only a vague awareness of the general direction of his thought: moments of conjecture, discovery, and sudden solution are experienced as particularly vivid states of consciousness. Such states were initially described, for the most part, in psychology. They included K. Bühler’s “Aha” experience (Aha-Erlebnis)—the awareness of a needed solution—and W. Köhler’s theory of insight as the instantaneous comprehension of a new structure.

However, the study of productive thinking has revealed that conjecture, illumination, and unexpected new solutions occur during experiments if special arrangements are provided for during the creative process (M. Wertheimer, B. M. Teplov, A. N. Leont’ev). Using D. I. Mendeleev’s periodic law as an example, B. M. Kedrov demonstrated that analysis of the products and “offal” (unpublished materials) of creativity reveals the landmarks along the way to a scientific discovery, regardless of how these landmarks were perceived by the scientist himself. It is worthy to note that the personal mechanisms of creativity are to be revealed and described within a specific social and historical context.

The aggregate of psychological traits typifying the creative personality has been scientifically studied once special tests were elaborated together with methods for processing and analyzing their data. The pioneer in this field was the psychologist F. Galton. Galton’s view on the hereditary nature of the ability to create was later criticized in psychology by the Swiss scientist A. Candolle; C. Lombroso’s opinion that genius is related to mental derangement was criticized as well.

Interest in the psychological aspects of creativity, particularly scientific creativity, increased greatly in the mid-20th-century owing to the scientific and technological revolution. The existing methods for studying personality proved to be inadequate. This was particularly true of traditional tests, which often gave a low evaluation of mental ability when the persons tested exhibited originality and nonconformist thinking. New testing systems have been developed for determining the distinctive signs of the creative personality. These systems use factor analysis and other statistical methods. Particular importance is ascribed to mental agility, divergent thinking, inner motivation, and the imagination.

Statistical studies conducted by A. C. Lehman and W. Dennis (USA) have examined the relationships between education and work productivity and between age and the dynamics of creativity. Among the methods developed to stimulate group creativity, the most popular in the USA have been brainstorming and synectics. The theory of brainstorming maintains that the control mechanisms of the consciousness, which serve to adapt to the environment, hinder the mind’s creative potential. These barrier mechanisms may be neutralized by dividing the creative process into two stages: the generation of ideas, and the critical evaluation of ideas. A group of individuals is requested to produce as many ideas as possible in relation to a given problem, and then the most original and promising ideas are selected from among the total number of opinions and surmises. Synectics endeavors to actualize the intuitive and emotional components of intellectual activity under conditions of group creativity.

The achievements of cybernetics, and the computerizing of those intellectual functions that are amenable to formalization, have increased interest in creative acts and in those personal abilities that cannot be formalized. Attempts are also being made to construct a technical model of the process of seeking and finding new knowledge. Psychology faces the task of clarifying the transformations taking place in the nature of creativity in the context of the formalization of knowledge. In studying scientific creativity, the science of science seeks now to synthesize the approaches to creativity from the standpoint of logic, sociology, and psychology.


Gruzenberg, S. O. Genii i tvorchestvo. Leningrad, 1924.
Kedrov, B. M. Den’ odnogo velikogo otkrytiia. Moscow, 1958.
Nauchnoe tvorchestvo. Moscow, 1969.
Problemy nauchnogo tvorchestva v sovremennoi psikhologii. Moscow, 1971.
Khudozhestvennoe i nauchnoe tvorchestvo. Leningrad, 1972.
Chelovek nauki. Moscow, 1974.
Wertheimer, M. Productive Thinking. New York, 1959.
Creativity and Its Cultivation. New York, 1959.
Scientific Creativity. New York-London, 1963.
Maslow, A. H. Psychology of Science. New York-London, 1966.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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