FOR the last fifteen years I have been studying human creative processes, particularly as they are manifest in the arts. I have done so principally from the vantage point of cognitive psychology, that aspiring discipline which seeks to uncover the basic laws of human thought. My views have of course changed over the years (as have the audiences addressed), but my impulse has remained essentially the same--to gain insight into creative processes and products, be they from the hand of an autistic graphic artist (like the amazing young English girl, Nadia), a writer who sustained brain damage (like Baudelaire), or a composer at the height of his powers (like Mozart). My current thoughts on this topic, and many of the steps that led to them, are presented in this collection of essays.
One of my professors in graduate school, a brilliant but insidious fellow, once taunted me: "Why study creativity? The psychologists who have done so are a notably dull lot." He was right in a sense, because the list of individuals who have studied the creative process is distressingly long in comparison with the handful who have actually illuminated it. But my professor was just as certainly wrong. The greatest psychologists--from William James to Sigmund Freud, from B. F. Skinner to Jean Piaget--have all recognized the importance and the appeal of a study of the creative processes. They have all sought to explain how human beings can fashion comprehensive theories in science or powerful works of art. And if they have not fully succeeded in providing a coherent and cogent account of this most puzzling of areas, it is not for want of trying.
There are autobiographical keys to the course I have followed. As a bright but somewhat isolated child, I was singled out by others for two reasons: first, I did well in school; second, I played the piano with some skill and flair. My pleasures as a youth came from reading, writing, and thinking as well as from my involvement with music. I