Explaining Creativity: The Science of Human Innovation

Explaining Creativity: The Science of Human Innovation

Explaining Creativity: The Science of Human Innovation

Explaining Creativity: The Science of Human Innovation

Synopsis

Explaining Creativity is an accessible introduction to the latest scientific research on creativity. In the last 50 yearss, psychologists, anthropologists, and sociologists have increasingly studied creativity, and we now know more about creativity that at any point in history. ExplainingCreativity considers not only arts like painting and writing, but also science, stage performance, and business innovation. Until about a decade ago, creativity researchers tended to focus on highly valued activities like fine art painting and Nobel prize winning science. Sawyer brings thisresearch up to date by including movies, music videos, cartoons, videogames, hypertext fiction, and computer technology. For example, this is the first book on creativity to include studies of performance and improvisation. Sawyer draws on the latest research findings to show the importance ofcollaboration and context in all of these creative activities. Today's science of creativity is interdisciplinary; in addition to psychological studies of creativity, Explaining Creativity includes research by anthropologists on creativity in non-Western cultures, and research by sociologists about the situations, contexts, and networks of creative activity. Explaining Creativity brings these approaches together within the sociocultural approach to creativity pioneered by Howard Becker, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Howard Gardner. The sociocultural approach moves beyond the individual to consider the social and cultural contexts of creativity,emphasizing the role of collaboration and context in the creative process.

Excerpt

Genius. Invention. Talent. And, of course, creativity. These words describe the highest levels of human performance. When we are engaged in the act of being creative, we feel we are performing at the peak of our abilities. Creative works give us insight and enrich our lives.

Creativity is part of what makes us human. Our nearest relatives, chimpanzees and other primates, are often quite intelligent but never reach these high levels of performance. And although advanced “artificially intelligent” computer programs hold the world title in chess, and can crunch through mounds of data and identify patterns invisible to the human eye, they still cannot master everyday creative skills.

In spite of its importance, creativity has not received much attention from scientists. Until very recently, only a few researchers had studied creativity. Most psychologists instead study what they believe are more fundamental mental properties—memory, logical reasoning, and attention. But in recent years psychologists—along with increasing numbers of sociologists, anthropologists, musicologists, theater experts, and art critics—have increasingly turned their attention to creativity. Because creativity is not a central topic in any of these fields, these scholars work without big research grants, and without a lot of attention from the leaders of their fields. Even so, their research findings have gradually accumulated, and our knowledge about creativity has now attained a critical mass. Perhaps for the first time, we hold in our grasp the potential to explain creativity.

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