Essay: Creativity Gardner and Csikszentmihalyi's Perspectives

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Creativity

Gardner and Csikszentmihalyi's perspectives on ongoing creativity are valid, but unnecessarily restrictive for several reasons. First, their view discounts the contributions of creative individuals like musicians and artists who create one superb masterpiece. A "one hit wonder" produces a song every bit as inspiring if not more so than a band spewing out mediocre accomplishments over the course of twenty years. Gardner and Csikszentmihalyi therefore confuse creativity with productivity. Sudden bursts are the essence of the creative process and potentially experienced by the most average of individuals.

Creativity is not necessarily qualitative in nature, as Gardner and Csikszentmihalyi suggest. Therefore, creativity is not necessarily expressed in regular intervals over time as with a novelist like Stephen King. A sudden burst of productive inspiration can be tremendously meaningful and wholly representative of the creative process. The burst reflects the mysterious power of the brain and mind to synthesize ideas or generate art and music. Creativity is not measured in volume of output but in quality of output.

Second, Gardner and Csikszentmihalyi's view turn the creative process into an elite one. If creativity depends on productive output then only those individuals who produce large outputs of work are heralded as valuable artists or thinkers. Instead, creativity should be viewed more liberally to encourage ordinary individuals to value their small accomplishments. When viewed as a natural output of human thought and behavior, creativity can find expression in the mundane.

Finally, Gardner and Csikszentmihalyi suggest that creative people are inherently driven to produce whether or not they receive remuneration. Their view reflects a bias of thinking, one that suggests that only starving artists are truly creative. A person who is financially driven to produce works of art is simply motivated by money instead of being internally compelled to create. The person might in fact value their work more than those who devote time to creative enterprises for no monetary gain. Their motivation in no way reflects the quality of their work or their earning the right to be considered as a creative individual.

2. Creative flow does offer a trance-like, euphoric feeling like a peak experience. Csikszentmihalyi's research uncovered what writers and artists have intuited for centuries of human history: that the creative experience is akin to a spiritual experience. Nietzsche suggested that creativity made human beings like the gods. The same qualities ascribed to the gods in ancient literature are those experienced by human beings: the ability to create life as well as works of art.

Csikszentmihalyi found that creative flow is intensely rewarding, offering not only the ability to produce creative works but also to appreciate the joy of being alive. Creativity is therefore a state of mind, as much as it is a process of synthesis and production. The magic and mystery of creativity is later viewed and appreciated by other human beings, who may be inspired to achieve great works. For example, listening to a piece of classical music might inspire a young mind to compose her own song. Traipsing through the Louvre may lead an old man to purchase paints and an easel and create lovely works of art. Creativity, viewed as a spiritual or as a peak psychological experience, has transcendent, even moral value. The fruits of creative labor are shared by the whole of humanity. Normally, a peak experience or flow experience would be personal. The creative process makes peak experiences collective, bringing a sense of joy and awe to other human beings. Finally, the lack of self-consciousness that Csikszentmihalyi and others associate with the creative flow suggests that creativity is inherently selfless and therefore potentially altruistic.

3. Although many creative or highly intelligent persons are imbalanced, exhibiting weaknesses in areas other than their speciality, many are well rounded. The ideal example is Leonardo DaVinci, who inspired the term "Renaissance Man." A Renaissance man is a polymath, a person who excels at more fields than just one or even two. Creative people working in the entertainment industry often develop solid social skills to complement their special intelligences. Some musicians are also visual artists, and some actors are also mathematical geniuses. Although some creative individuals remain lopsided in their talents, many are polymaths.

Some polymaths work hard to train themselves to overcome or work with their weaknesses. For instance, a person who is highly skilled in the logical-spatial intelligences might have to work hard at socializing and eventually becomes able to transcend awkwardness. Others never overcome their weaknesses, though. Their inability to broaden their horizons or develop more than one type of intelligence does not discount their core strengths.

Stereotypes solidify the idea that mathematicians or scientific geniuses are socially inept, or that musicians and artists are always temperamental. While the stereotype does hold true for many individuals, many others are strong in more areas than one. Physicists who appear on television to passionately discuss the latest trends in their field; artists who become social activists or politicians are reminders that creative energy is not necessarily limited to one or even a few chosen fields. In fact, socialization might be the culprit for lopsided development. A child who is a genius may be treated differently by his or her peers and parents, creating the self-fulfilling prophesy of limited potential.

4. Both Csikszentmihalyi and Poincare make valid points about the way creativity manifests. Csikszentmihalyi emphasized the flow or peak experience of the creative process, whereas Poincare's assessment is more logical and sequential. The two perspectives are not necessarily mutually exclusive. A person may need to incubate ideas over time to experience the flow that Csikszentmihalyi refers to. Poincare, coming from a background in mathematics, apparently experiences creativity differently than a painter would. Different parts of the brain would be activated when mulling over a mathematical proof than when deciding which instruments to include in a composition. Individual differences would also account for variations in the creative process. Some persons may be more prone to sudden flashes of insight that come seemingly from nowhere, and others might need a slower, more seemingly mundane approach to creative problem-solving. The ways individuals experience creativity might be correlated with their personality types, too.

Combined, Poincare's and Csikszentmihalyi's theories offer a comprehensive view of the creative process. Ideas often do need to be planted and given time to germinate and flower before yielding fruit. Other ideas appear on the field of consciousness suddenly like a flash of lightening. The person's emotional and physical state might play a part in which type of creativity emerges at which time. Blocks to creative energy could be simply incubation periods or they may be emotional or physical pitfalls to creative development.

5. Evolutionary psychology (EP) posits psychological and sociological facets of biological evolution. Human psychological structures and systems adapt to environmental stimuli, not just in the creation or elimination of physical apparati but of cognitive and emotional ones too. The process of choosing a sexual partner, competitive behavior, and even language may be functions of evolution. Adaptations may be embedded in human DNA and manifest specifically in neurobiology. The evolution of the frontal lobes of the brain would be the most well accepted example of evolutionary psychology. Cosmides & Tooby (1997) describe evolutionary psychology as an "approach to psychology" rather than a specific area of interest within psychology such as cognitive science.

Cosmides & Tooby use the approach of evolutionary psychology to explain what the researchers refer to as cheater detection. Cheater detection is based on the implied ability to detect and hone instincts. Cosmides & Tooby note that instincts about other people evolve over time and become hard-wired in the brain. When instincts detecting cheaters evolve, those individuals may be ostracized or socially sanctioned. In this way, human moral development is believed to evolve in the same way human biological development does.

Evolutionary psychology also suggests that sexual and mating instincts evolve over time and become hard-wired in the brain and/or body. The instinct to avoid or be repulsed by incest is an example used to suggest that the body evolves cognitive coping mechanisms. Because incest yielded undesirable results throughout human history, human beings have evolved instinctual aversions toward incest behavior. Instincts about other people's character and integrity, as well as instincts about who to mate with may manifest as felt sensations in the body, as emotions, or as thoughts. Evolutionary psychology hypothesizes an evolving brain that helps human beings adapt to social and environmental conditions.

6. Neuroscience has revealed brain structures and systems associated with cognitive functions such as logical ability, mathematical prowess, musical thinking, and spatial relations. The left parietal lobe and its adjacent temporal lobe and occipital lobe areas are implicated in logical thinking (Shearer 2002). Shearer (2002) also notes that cognitions related to logic like planning and goal setting are attributed to frontal lobe activity. Musical ability is attributed more to the right anterior temporal lobe and to the frontal lobes (Shearer 2002). Using technological tools like magnetic resonance imaging, neuroscientists can narrow down the parts of the brain involved in intelligent… [END OF PREVIEW]

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