Saturday, July 19, 2008

Book review: The International Handbook of Creativity (edited by Kaufman and Sternberg). Reviewd by: Randah Taher

about the book:
The International Handbook of Creativity rounds off the picture presented in Sternberg's Handbook of Creativity. Where the Handbook provides an in depth picture of theories, strands, and foundation data for the study of creativity, the International Handbook completes the picture with worldwide applications of creativity.
The goal of this handbook is to present a truly international and diverse set of perspectives on the psychology of human creativity. Distinguished international scholars have contributed to this book's chapters on the history and current state of creativity research and theory in their respective parts of the world. Much of the work discussed has never before been available in English.

about the review:

The review was done as part of our work in the Current Issues in Creativity Studies course during the 2oo8 summer semester (CRS625, Summer 2008).

My initial plan for this assignment was to find the shortest, most recent book on creativity. When I saw this book in the library, I was fixed on the title and ignored the heavy weight and its 500-pages of information. Unlike my initial plan to skip through it, I went through every page. Here’s why.

The book has 17 chapters, each written from a different country or region of the world, focusing on the studies and research in creativity. The last chapter was a summary on all themes and topics included in the book, and future works. I liked it because I felt this is exactly what I needed from my masters program: A look at all creativity research in the world, and not only in the U.S. or only the cognitive approach method as the CPS. I need a thorough study on different ways of looking at creativity and different measures, definitions, and models. This book is what explained creativity to me. I will only highlight some of the things that struck me as different or really “really” interesting.

In Latin America, and specifically Brazil, 3 aspects of the creative processes were compared: 1) mentors, 2) personal environment and barriers to creativity, and 3) verbal creativity in children. It was nice to see that for creative artists / writers in Brazil, “their mothers had been the most important influence on their creative achievements, and they viewed them as their mentors” (p.54).

Spain, much research and creativity measures have been conducted over the years (from as early as the 50s). The First International Symposium on Creativity was organized in 1976 by Ricardo Marín, and the First European Journal on Creativity (Innovación Creadora) was published by the Polytechnic university of Valencia. From this same university, the Instituto de Creatividad e innovaciones educativas was established. In the 80s and 90s, there was a vast increase in the amount of work, research and publication on creativity in Spain, and the First International Congress on the Highly Gifted was chaired by Genovard.

While De la Torre systemized and conceptualized the issue of creativity, Marín established the set of “creative commandments” in 1989 to teach creativity.

Germany and German-speaking countries, creativity embraced 7 main focus points: 1) complex problem-solving processes, 2) personality development, 3) economic and scientific application, 4) the social context, 5) creativity in the education system, 6) the learning and working environment, and 7) creativity diagnostic. I was so happy – but not surprised – to learn about their long research in problem solving and productive thinking. In Germany, research on problem solving is over 100 years old, and over 50 years on systematic creativity research. In the 70s, the Batelle institute developed techniques to support creative thinking such as the Metaplan card technique, modified brainstorming, brainwriting, brainwalking and scenario techniques. Creando, The International Foundation for Creativity and Leadership started in 1979 ( and ( and since then they have organized their annual symposiums on creativity. From the European Conference on Creativity and Innovation in 1993 in Darmstadt, Germany, they found the European Association on Creativity and Innovation and the German Circle of Darmstadt (which became the Institute for Creativity). In 1998, the charter on creativity was made and Sep 5 was decided to be the European Day of Creativity (the day Guilford gave his famous speech).

Creativity in the Scandinavian region was also of great interest to me. Their studies took into account people’s attitude towards life, the creative climate and what kind of mood is conductive for creativity. Ekvall, Christensen, Kivimäki and Dackert studied and wrote about creative climates and teams. In essence, “environmental influences have been studied systematically in industrial and other organizational settings” (p.229).

The Soviet-Russian countries, is where I marveled the most. I discovered that the psychology of creativity in
Russia began with studies of productive thinking and insight. Yakov Ponomarev was the first Soviet psychologist since the early 60s to develop a comprehensive conception of creativity that dealt with the process as it interacted between intuition and logic. For him, it was a continuum of 5 structural levels of intelligence, with intuition on one side, and logic thinking on the other. Ponomarev in 1987 developed the 4 stages of creative thinking as: 1) deliberate logic search, 2) intuitive search and intuitive solutions, 3) verbalization of intuitive solutions, and 4) formalization of verbalized solutions. This method of study resulted in two types of products: direct and indirect. Dimitri Ushakov examined the role of intelligence, persistence, and motivation in solving problems. He also studied the role of metaphors and its aid in indirect results. Oleg Tikhomirov studied the nonverbal and emotional regulations, and chess players, and Vladimir Mendelevich proposed a different framework for understanding intuition. In general, the Soviet psychology of creativity was “oriented toward the discovery of psychological mechanisms of insight (guess), as well as toward the identification of objective social and environmental processes” (p.249). What I liked the most about this chapter, is the majority of women researchers in the field than in any other country.

Poland, some of the centers that study creativity are: 1) the Jagiellonian university in Krakow, 2) Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński university in Warsaw, and 3) Marie Curie-Skłodowska university in Lublin. Other applied centers are: a) Academy of Special Pedagogy in Warsaw, and b) university of Lódź. Current research in creativity take into consideration four areas: 1) creative thinking and creative thought, 2) role of motivation, affects, dispositions in creativity, 3) situational influences on creative processes and their outcomes, and 4) development. Alina Kolańczyk reviewed the intensive and extensive states of attention, where intuition (as part of the incubation process) is rooted in the mechanisms of telic vs. paratelic motivation, and Wiesława Limont in 1996 wrote on the creative imagination and metaphorical thinking.

Israel, the 4x4 structure of giftedness was created by Milgram and incorporated the heuristic model, and in Turkey, Ahmet Inam wrote that fantasy is the main source of thought (as it can be changed into thought, action or even a product). Dedegil in 2oo4 proposed a 5-step model, where “the process of scientific creativity is nourished by internal (and individual intelligence, education, and knowledge) and external (physical, cultural, and economical conditions) preliminary conditions” (p.348).

Korea studies were focused on the characteristics of creative people using the implicit knowledge of creativity, from which, intrinsic motivation was found to be the single most powerful force in creative achievement. Other factors included strong government support, human relations, problem solving ability, openness, diligence, luck, and risk taking. By contrast, “the Indian way of thinking has been characterized as context sensitive and operates with abstract generalization and universal categories” (p.424). Majumdar in 1996 reported that intuitive feeling is “central to scientific creativity” (p.432) and Yadava in 2oo3 used a checklist to understand the notion of implicit creativity. Still, this field of study is new in India, as only in 1962 did Manas Raychaudhari complete the first doctoral dissertation in creativity at the university of Calcutta.

Finally, “the African creative practices are, in part, a product of their individual and collective expressive selves resulting from the challenges of diversity, as well as from religion, modernization, language, geography, and political systems” (p.459). The concept that intrigued me the most is how they perceived the consequences of both process and outcome on each other. “The processes and outcomes of creative expression in Africans can be presumed to be mutually reinforcing. For example a possible self could be realized through adoption of a product, idea, or performance that makes it possible to achieve a newly aspired role, whereas an achieved role through self-definition could create opportunities to experience new products, ideas, and performance. The outcomes of creative expression are realized within ecocultural contexts (modern, transitional, and traditionalist), which are transformed by the outcomes, thus potentiating further replication, adaptation and innovation” (p.462). In Arab-African studies, researchers Abdel-Ghaffar and Habib noted that creative individuals showed the following personality traits: emotional sensitivity, emotional stability, self-control, and liberal attitudes. The “research on creativity in Arab Africa has largely focused on the psychology of literature and art” (p.475). Africans in general consider creativity to derive from at least 5 components: 1) thinking styles, 2) personality, 3) motivation, 4) environment, and 5) the confluence of the aforesaid attributes. “To define creativity from the perspective of citizens of African communities suggest that it serves replicative, adaptive, and innovative functions involving everyday activities” (p.483).

A final note on creativity around the world, the last chapter concluded that there are 2 types of creativity research: applied and basic.

The applied research can be either educational or industry based. The Basic research falls into 4 types of psychology: 1) cognitive (divergent thinking, intuition, imagination, logic, remote association, and other), 2) developmental (childhood and adulthood), 3) differential (differences, personalities, psychopathology), and 4) social (social context and aesthetic communication. There are 5 dimensions for the diversity of creativity research, I’ll let you read the book to find out what these dimensions are.

Of all the countries and regions, the most that caught my attention are: the Scandinavians and their work on creative climate, the Soviet and their extensive experience on using intuition and logic in their definition of creativity and finally the diverse african view, and how the process and and result of creative thinking are integrated and influenced by each other more visibly than in our north American views. Happy reading!

Randah Taher

CRS625, summer 2008

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