Creativity

Also of interest to psychologists who study problem solving is J. P. Guilford's (1967) distinction between convergent and divergent thinking. Convergent thinking consists of applying logical reasoning to arrive at a single, correct answer or solution to a problem. Divergent thinking, on the other hand, is more open-ended in that multiple solutions are possible. Divergent thinking is applied to the questions on measures of creativity such as the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking and Guilford's Measures of Creativity. Responses to items on creativity tests are typically scored in terms of fluency (the number of ideas presented) and novelty (newness, originality).

Creativity actually goes beyond the realm of problem solving and into problem generation. A highly creative person not only solves problems in a new and different way, but also recognizes the existence of problems that other people fail to see. For example, Johannes Gutenberg's contemporaries may not have seen the need for a printing press. However, Gutenberg saw the need and was also able to combine two objects that were not obviously associated (lettered dies and an olive press), a process referred to as the "bifurcation of associates." Not only does creativity demand a great deal of expertise in the area of interest but also imagination, a venturesome personality, a high level of motivation, and a supportive environment (Sternberg & Lubart, 1991, 1992).

The history of science and art reveals that many of the most original ideas were developed when the individuals concerned were still young adults. For this reason, it is commonly believed that creativity declines in middle- and later adulthood. Although research findings (e.g., Cole, 1979; Dennis, 1966; Lehman, 1953; McCrae, Arenberg, & Costa, 1987) support the conclusion that the peak period of creative productivity occurs in early or middle adulthood, the shape of the productivity x age curve varies with the discipline and the individual (see Figure 4-5).

A list of general conclusions based on research concerning the relationship of creative productivity to chronological age is given in Table 4-2. In general, creativity tends to persists throughout the individual's life, reaching a peak in the middle or late years. Furthermore, the decline in creativity in later life may be caused by a number of factors, including the demands of other activities, illness, personal problems, increased stress, and loss of interest or motivation in the field of creative endeavor. And even though creative productivity declines in most older people, the lives of Michelangelo, Verdi, Goethe, Picasso, Sophocles, Monet, and other creative geniuses illustrate that highly original work is possible in a person's seventies, eighties, and even nineties.

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20-29 30-39

40-49 50-59

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60-69

70-79

20-29 30-39

40-49 50-59

Age Interval

60-69

70-79

Figure 4-5 Age changes in creative productivity in three fields of endeavor. (Based on data from Dennis, 1966.)

Table 4-2 A Dozen Conclusions Concerning Creativity across the Life Span

1. Creative productivity peaks in early adulthood.

2. The peak of creative productivity occurs at different ages for different fields of endeavor.

3. The ratio of the quality to the quantity of creative productions remains fairly constant across the life span.

4. Creative productivity across the life span varies significantly from person to person.

5. Creativity at all age levels can be encouraged or discouraged by social and cultural groups.

6. People who begin their careers early and maintain a high level of output will tend to continue being productive in late life.

7. Age decrements in ability are seldom great enough for people to become devoid of creativity in later life.

8. The magnitude and rate of age declines in creativity vary with the particular field or domain of endeavor.

9. A resurgence of creativity may be experienced in later adulthood.

10. Many, if not all, older adults can renew themselves both creatively and personally.

11. The focus or style of creativity may change in later life.

12. The level of creative productivity in later years depends on a person's creative potential at the beginning of his or her career.

Sources: Extracted fromKastenbaum (1993) and Simonton (19901.

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