Author: Sandhya Basu
What is common among the following things: a pen, Star Wars movie, Theory of Gravitation, Soda, hair bands, and wheels?
Do you think this is a strange question?, that they are not at all connected.
Try once again. Use your creativity and imagination.
Yes, you got it. It is indeed creativity!
None of these would have existed if the creators did not come up with these world-changing ideas.
Creativity may seem like a general concept, but it does have its complexities. Such complexes are due to the subjective nature of creativity. For example, my assessment of creativity can differ from your assessment, and hence the subjectivity. Moreover, there is no consensus on the definition of creativity, even in the scientific community.
However, the most common explanation of creativity suggests that it’s a mental process that involves generating innovative ideas. For example, a creative individual will have a different approach to a problem as compared to the one that adopts a traditional thinking style.
There are two primary elements of creativity: originality and functionality.
Originality is a common word that requires the creative idea to be a new idea and not just an extension of something that already exists. For example, the usage of wheels for transportation during the cave-man period, when used for the first time ever.
Functionality means that the creative idea must be useful to society in general. Taking the same example of wheels, we see that the wheels revolutionized transportation in terms of efficiency and impact.
Hence, any idea for it to be called creative in its true sense must be original and impactful.
Creativity is also categorized as per the “Four-C” model. This categorization takes into account the different levels of creativity among individuals. The model suggests the following four kinds of creativity:
- ‘Mini-C’ creativity: refers to meaningful ideas that concern only the self. For example, Rahul drew his first painting at school. It is his first attempt at drawing and hence, is meaningful to him.
- ‘Little-C’ creativity: involves everyday thinking and problem-solving. For example, Sonali created a new recipe that turned out to be delicious.
- ‘Pro-C’ creativity: this type of creativity is usually seen among professionals who are skilled in their respective fields. However, they do not achieve excellence and generally perform activities that they love. For example, Raj majored in Fine Arts and now he has his own picture gallery.
- ‘Big-C’ creativity: involves creating works that are considered exceptional in a particular field and often lead to world-renowned creations. For example, Apple’s innovations.
Creativity has attracted interest from many disciplines: Cognitive Sciences, Behavioral Psychology, Social Psychology, Philosophy, Business, and Management, among others.
Scientists are researching the multidimensional nature of creativity. In the past, they believed that the creative domain solely lied in the right hemisphere of the brain.
However, recent research shows that neural networks across the brain are responsible for creativity. For example, when we solve a puzzle, different areas of the brain get activated which collectively enable us to perform the task better. However, certain networks in our brain play important roles when it comes to creative thoughts. Some of which are as follows:
- Executive Attention Network: gets active when the task requires a certain level of concentration. For example, your executive attention network is active as you are reading this blog. This network connects the lateral and the back regions of the prefrontal cortex (responsible for planning, decision-making, and altering behavior).
- The Default Network: is activated when you are indulged in imagination. It creates pictures based on your experiences and enables you to imagine alternate scenarios. For example, this network is active when you are daydreaming about your favorite time of the day. It also involves empathetic situations, i.e. when we imagine what the other person might be feeling or thinking. This network lies deep inside the prefrontal cortex and the temporal lobe (responsible for processing sensory input to retain visual memory, language, and associating emotions).
- The Salience Network: this network helps us choose things that need our attention. It helps us decide what to attend and what not to attend. For example, when we are driving, our eyes automatically register the trees and shops on the sides. However, our focus remains on the road, irrespective of the scenery because of the salience network.
Thus, these networks help us in concentrating, imagining, and attending to various things around us, which in turn channelizes our inner creativity.
While some people are naturally creative, there are things that we can do to nurture our creativity.
According to Csikszentmihalyi (2013), some important traits of creative people include energy (both physical and mental energy to reflect and think), intelligence (to understand and adapt to changing environments), and discipline (to work towards dreams and passions regularly). Motivation is another important factor that keeps us going for our creative pursuits. Brain exercises and training can stimulate creativity.
- American Psychological Association. Monitor on Psychology. https://www.apa.org/monitor/nov03/creativity.
- Gabora, L. (2013). Psychology of Creativity. Encyclopedia of Creativity, Invention, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, 1515–1520. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-3858-8_386
- Jeneson, A., Wixted, J. T., Hopkins, R. O., & Squire, L. R. (2012). Visual Working Memory Capacity and the Medial Temporal Lobe. Journal of Neuroscience, 32(10), 3584–3589. https://doi.org/10.1523/jneurosci.6444-11.2012
- Sussex Publishers. Creativity. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/basics/creativity.