Art, Mind, and Brain: A Cognitive Approach to Creativity

By Howard Gardner | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION
STRUCTURES AND SYMBOLS

TWENTY YEARS AGO psychology seemed a rather remote and sterile area to individuals interested in the full and creative use of the mind. The field harbored a trio of uninviting specializations. There was academic psychology, featuring the use of contrived laboratory apparatus to study the perception of visual illusions or the memorization of long lists of nonsense syllables. Such lines of study bore little evident relationship to human beings engaged in thought. There was behaviorism, the approach that emerged from work with rats and pigeons. Behaviorists claimed that we act in the way we do because we are reinforced for doing so and, given their focus on overt activity, these scholars denied inner life--no thoughts, no fantasies, no aspirations. Finally, there was psychoanalysis, which offered not only a controversial method of treatment but also an overarching theory of human nature. While psychoanalysis had a grandeur and depth that eluded both academic psychology and behaviorism, it strongly accentuated human personality and unconscious motivation while saying little about rational thought processes or conscious problem--solving.

The cognitive revolution came in two parts. First, there was the frank recognition that one could--one must--take seriously human mental processes, including thinking, problem-solving, and creating. Study of the mind once again became a proper scientific undertaking. Second, there was the demonstration by several researchers that human thought processes were characterized by considerable regularity and structure. Not all of this cogitation took place in full view, nor could

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