Academic journal article Journal of Group Psychotherapy, Psychodrama & Sociometry

The Canon of Spontaneity-Creativity Revisited: The Effect of Empirical Findings

Academic journal article Journal of Group Psychotherapy, Psychodrama & Sociometry

The Canon of Spontaneity-Creativity Revisited: The Effect of Empirical Findings

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT. The author examines J. L. Moreno's theory of spontaneity-creativity in light of recent empirical data reported in 3 studies using the Spontaneity Assessment Inventory (SAI) and the Spontaneity Deficit Inventory (SDI; A. Christofororu & D. A. Kipper, 2006; D. A. Kipper & J. Hundal, 2005; D. A. Kipper & W. A. Jones, 2005). The author focuses the discussion on the traditional depiction of the canon of spontaneity-creativity. In general, the data supports some of Moreno's hypotheses. However, after a review of Moreno's writing and the empirical findings, the author suggests that some modifications are needed in the earlier canon. In addition, he suggests that the canon needs to be expanded to include a description of the sequence that accounts for the effects of the lack of spontaneity.

Keywords: creativity, Moreno, spontaneity, theory of spontaneity-creativity


MORENO'S THEORY OF SPONTANEITY-CREATIVITY (1953) is the cornerstone of his view of mental health and psychopathology. The theory extended beyond the traditional realm of psychiatry and became his view of what makes life productive, satisfying, and fulfilling. Moreno proposed "the idea that the spontaneous creative matrix can be made the central focus of man's world not only as the underlying source but on the very surface of his actual living" (1964, p. 109). Spontaneity and creativity, or, as Moreno referred to them, the spontaneity state and the creative act, are connected to other concepts that characterized his philosophy. Examples are the Godhead, tele (the basis of human interactions), the moment, the encounter, and roles (the basic matrix of the self).

By his own admission, Moreno arrived at his spontaneity-creativity theory using two methods of inquiry. One was a dialectical analysis and the other was his personal observation of the conduct of people on the psychodrama stage and in life. When he formulated his ideas during the 1930s and 1940s, these were popular methods of scientific inquiry. At that time, they were deemed appropriate to lend credence to theoretical postulations. Today, intellectual analysis and a single person's clinical observations are accepted ways of formulating hypotheses but are not considered an adequate proof of their veridicality. Nowadays, the most compelling affirmation of theoretical hypotheses is the support of empirical data discovered by means of scientific investigations. Therefore, the veridicality of the spontaneity-creativity theory still awaits empirical backing.

Until recently, the absence of a measure of assessing either the spontaneous state (spontaneity) or the creative act (creativity), or both states, made it virtually impossible to investigate the validity of the famous canon of spontaneity-creativity (Moreno, 1993, p. 18) shown in Figure 1. However, the design of the Spontaneity Assessment Inventory (Kipper & Christoforou, 2006) and the Spontaneity Deficit Inventory (Kipper & Jones, 2005) created new investigative opportunities.

Briefly, the process of creating the SAI and SDI was as follows: The authors contacted 20 senior psychodramatists from the United States and Europe. All had a minimum of 25 years of experience and were known for their professional expertise in psychodrama in their own countries and internationally. They wrote five adjectives (or two- or three-word characterizations) that describe "the feeling of being in a spontaneous state" and five adjectives that describe "the feeling of being in a nonspontaneous state." The authors incorporated their descriptions into one list that, after they deleted redundancies and long descriptions, contained 125 adjectives, or items. At that point, there were 79 items in the spontaneous category and 46 in the nonspontaneous category.

On the basis of those descriptions, the authors made two sets of identical forms of the inventory. Each included the question, "How strongly do you have these feelings or thoughts during a typical day? …

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