How does creativity work?


Besides focus and concentration, two other abilities are involved:

Defocused attention: the tendency to not focus excusively on the relevant aspects of a situation, but notice also seemingly irrelevant aspects. It is only when one does not yet know what are the relevant dimensions—or when those assumed to be relevant turn out not to be—that defocused attention is of use.

  • High sensitivity even to subliminal impressions; stimuli that are perceived but of which one is not conscious of having perceived
  • Risk talking
  • Tolerance of ambiguity & delayed gratification
  • leaning toward non conformity and unconventionality

Flat associative hierarchies: the steepness of one’s associative hierarchy is measured by comparing the words generated in response to stimulus words (those who generate many have flat associative hierarchy)

Thinking modes: thought varies in a continuum between these two extremes. This capacity to shift between analytic and associative thought is sometimes referred to as contextual focus.

  • Associative thought is contrasted with a rule-based, convergent, or analytic mode of thought that is conducive to analyzing relationships of cause and effect between items already believed to be related. In associative thought one considers items in detail or considers multiple items at once, which facilitates detecting likenesses and integrating them
  • Analytic thought is believed to be related to what Freud termed ‘secondary process’ material. In analytic thought one considers items in a compact or ‘atomic’ form which facilitates mental operations on them.

Gabora, L. (2010). Revenge of the ‘neurds’: Characterizing creative thought in terms of
the structure and dynamics of human memory. Creativity Research Journal, 22(1), 1-13.


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