Creativity in Context: Update to the Social Psychology of Creativity

By Teresa M. Amabile; Mary Ann Collins et al. | Go to book overview

1
The Case for a Social Psychology of Creativity

It is nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wreck and ruin without fail. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty.

Einstein, 1949, p. 19

In this surprisingly lyrical passage from his autobiography, Einstein sounds a theme that will be repeated throughout this book: largely because they affect motivation, social factors can have a powerful impact on creativity.

To understand creativity, two basic questions must be answered. How is creative performance different from ordinary performance? What conditions are most favorable to creative performance--what personal abilities and characteristics, what social environments? With this book, I hope to lay the foundation for a social psychology of creativity. In this endeavor, I will concentrate on the second question by considering the social conditions that are most conducive to creativity. In examining the impact of social factors on creative performance, however, it is also necessary to consider the ways in which creative performance is different from ordinary performance. Thus, throughout the book, both questions will be addressed.


A Gap in Creativity Research

There are two reasons for developing a social psychology of creativity. The first, obvious reason is simply that there has previously been no such discipline. There is little relevant theory, there is only a small research literature on the effects of specific social and environmental influences on creativity and, more importantly, there are virtually no experimental studies of the effects of such influences. Clearly, this is not because there are few creativity studies overall. In 1950, Psychological Abstracts had 11 listings under "Creativity," less than .2% of the total number of articles abstracted. In 1960, this category represented .4% of the total; in 1966, it accounted for .8%, and by 1970 creativity articles made up fully 1% of

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