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Essays in Creativity

Edited by: Stanley Rosner Ph.D and Lawrence Edwin Abt, Ph.D.
  North River Press, Inc. Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., 1974


Six recognized authorities examine the illusive nature of creativity, each from the vantage point of his own professional specialization.   


The Aesthetic Approach Rudolf Arnheim, Ph.D.  
The Cognitive Approach Mary Henle, Ph.d.  
The Developmental Approach David H. Feldman, Ph.D.  
The Humanistic Approach Elizabeth Drews, Ph.D.  
The Philosophical Approach Albert Hofstadter, Ph.D.  
The Psychoanalytic Approach Harry Slochower, Ph.D.   

In a provocative concluding chapter the editors trace and pull together the elements common to all of the contributed papers.  An extensive bibliography of the theory of creativity and an Subject/Name Index complete the work. 

Julian Stamm (American Imago, Winter, 1976) described Essays as “a courageous attempt to update our current understanding of the creative process and the creative experience.  The total work provides an eclectic approach to the problem.” 


Interest in examining points of view about the nature of creativity originally stemmed from a series of interviews, conducted by the editors with creative persons in the arts and sciences, that have found expression in two companion volumes, The Creative Experience and The Creative Expression. Both works are directed to an exploration and understanding of the essentially subjective factors involved in creative behavior.  We have looked at the creative behavior of our interviewees within the total context of their life experiences, and have sought to relate  it to their feelings and emotions, their motivations and drives, their value systems and world outlooks.  What emerged from our inquiry was a fascinating, if incomplete, picture of the dynamic tensions characteristic of creative effort. 

Our interviews were directed toward uncovering, to the extent possible, factors of a highly personal nature associated with the processes of birth of ideas, their gestation, and their expression in the medium of choice.  Many of the person interviewed were puzzled about the sources of their creative urges, and some had their own conceptions.  As psychologists, we were led by our interviews to further inquiry about the nature of creative behavior; this book reflects our concern about systematic ways of looking at creativity.

There is a large and growing literature on creativity in which many empirical and some experimental data are presented.  There is a continuing – and impatient – concern in many quarters about the outcomes of research on creativity.  There is also, and significantly, a recognition of the need for still more empirical – and if possible, experimental studies of the whole process of creation, of those who provide it, and of the creative products themselves.  It is clear that much good work has been done and equally clear that much more remains to be accomplished. 

Virtually all research with which we are familiar has been undertaken in the context of one or another theoretical position.  The chapters that follow look at creativity from the point of view of several of the more important conceptualizations.  

It is our view that all theory, in whatever science, should be heuristic; that is, it should guide and inspire research and provide opportunities for organizing and understanding the results of empirical and experimental investigations.  To the extent that it accomplishes these aims, a theory is worthy of interest and study.  We recognize that theories change to reflect the accommodation of new data and to permit the better organization of older data.  We also recognize that theories can become methodological straight jackets and conceptual thickets.   Like human beings who construct them, in the course of their lives, theories face crises that force reformulations and sometimes total abandonment (Kuhn, 1970).  In the behavioral sciences, there is reason to believe that some of our theories face crises; but the responses to be made are unclear.

What is the present state of theory with respect to creativity?  What are some of the principal conceptual trends in current theory and theory building in this area?  The chapters that follow offer answers to such questions from certain points of view.  Is there something to be said from a more systematic point of view, and are we ready to say it?  Viewing the material in the chapters that follow, we set forth some of the requirement for a more systematic position in the final chapter.

Theories of creativity, like those of behavioral science in general, need to organize critical facts and data concerning creativity considered in its widest sense – as experience, as behavior, as process, and as product.  Moreover, such theories need to define research area, to determine empirical and experimental approaches, and to offer supportable interpretations of research findings.

It is our view that such fundamental needs have not been fully met.  Certainly the several theoretical approaches included here move in the direction of a more comprehensive approach to a theory of creativity, but each falls short of providing a conceptualization that is both systematic and unified.  This goal remains a challenge for the future.


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