Creativity and Science: contrasting or complementary terms?

Can really the creative insights be understood in scientific terms? Or better, does it really matter? The question I raise is whether the scientific approach could add some value to creative thinking.

In the common sense, the view of creativity as a mysterious phenomenon still exists. The artistic inspiration (a taste of the Divine) continues to remain a ruling opinion in looking at creativity. CreativityAnd the attempt to understand this inspiration seems to destroy the magic creative act. This view persists notwithstanding the decades of scientific research on the process and components of creative thinking, that should have definitively destroyed by dint of data the vision of creativity as a gift for few.

We are aware of the time necessary to science to enter in the common sense. Aside from groundbreaking data, science has some communication problems with the common sense. But the persistence of a mythical idea of creativity could also arise from another issue: the complexity of the phenomenon.

Creativity is indeed a complex human behavior. It’s a multi-faceted phenomenon. What is considered a creative behavior in one filed, could not be considered creative in another filed. Stenberg recently explained the contraposition between a domain-specific and a domain-general approach to creativity. According to a domain-specific point of view, different creativities reflect multiple content or symbolic domains. Howard Gardner, for example, sustained that in different domains different intelligences were used to create: Einstein manifested creativity through logical–mathematical intelligence, Stravinsky through musical intelligence, and so forth. Other theorists reject the multiple-domain creativities, arguing that many scientists are artistic and many artists are scientific. According to these theorists, although creativity may look domain specific, it is actually domain general. The more recent approach to the study of creativity tend to assume an intermediate position, sustaining that creativity has both domain-specific and domain-general aspects. For example, analytical abilities are quite domain-general, creative abilities and knowledge are somewhat domain specific.

The scientific research is a slow process. And the complexity of creative thinking does not help this process. But in this complex process, we loose the utility of scientific research. How can non-experts use these findings for understanding and helping their everyday creative thinking? Innovation through creativity is future. And the future can not be prerogative of few. Can Science provide a definition of what is necessary and what is not necessary for creatively acting and thinking, if it is yet bridled with the general definition of Creativity?

Certainly, knowledge is a fundamental added value to creative thinking. Explaining the processes, the neural substrates and the components of creativity is essential to act on creative thinking, to enhance the potentiality of creative thinking. And it is essential to discredit false myths on creativity, showing that every individual can be creative.

However, it is also essential to communicate this knowledge. And it is essential that a multi-faceted phenomenon will be studied with a multi-faceted approach. Every domain that found their roots in creativity should understand and explain the components of its own creativity. Creativity should exist as a meta-scientific research domain, with general methods at disposal of every research field and specific methods applicable to single research fields. Moreover, it might be challenging converging the specific knowledge emerging from the different domains in a single receptacle, to establishing the ground for a meta-theory of creative thinking. Creating, for example, a network between scientists that deal with creative thinking in different research domains could be a first solution to converge the bitty knowledge on creative thinking. Finally, every research field should be delegate to communicate with its own scientific domain, using the most congenial communication systems (specialized journals, books, blogs, television, and so forth).

At the end of this reflection, I think the right question is not whether the scientific approach could add some value to creative thinking, but how science could add value to creative thinking. Asking this question, maybe, could be the first step toward a Science of Creative Thinking.

Creativity and Science: contrasting or complementary terms?