Creativity and Imagination
Creativity is defined by psychological scientists as the generation of ideas or products that are both original and valuable. Creativity relies on imagination, the conscious representation of what is not immediately present to the senses. Although research on creativity has increased in quantity and quality since J. P. Guilford’s presidential address to the American Psychological Association in 1950, this fundamental human ability remains understudied in comparison to other important psychological phenomena. We are currently conducting a number of different research projects designed to better understand the causes and consequences of creativity, as well as how to enhance it.
Motivation and Creativity
One important antecedent of creative behavior is motivation. Why do individuals engage in creative work? What benefits, if any, do they anticipate? Past research on this important topic has shown that individuals who are intrinsically motivated tend to be more creative. In other words, individuals who engage in creative activities for the sake of the activities themselves (and not for the sake of extrinsic constraints of rewards) are better able to come up with original and valuable ideas. In addition, a small but growing body of literature suggests that prosocial motivation, defined as the desire to contribute to the lives of others, may also enhance creative thinking. Our ongoing research projects attempt to broaden the scientific understanding of the role of motivation in creativity by further investigating the specific nature of creators’ motivations, and the relationship between motivations, achievement, and well-being.
Creativity and Well-Being
Past research suggests that creative activities may have therapeutic benefits and enhance well-being. To date, little research has however investigated the mechanisms explaining how creative thinking may confer its benefits. Current research projects at our center examine the possibility that creative thinking may enhance well-being by enhancing cognitive flexibility and problem-solving abilities, by providing individuals with an important sense of mastery and agency, and by helping individuals perceive benefits after going through adversity.
We are currently designing and testing novel domain-specific interventions in order to help individuals increase their creative thinking skills and further examine the benefits of creativity for achievement and well-being. While past research has tended to focus on enhancing particular cognitive abilities for this purpose (i.e., divergent thinking skills), we are investigating the efficacy of motivational strategies, among other tools.
The Imagination Institute
The Imagination Institute is dedicated to making progress on the measurement, growth, and improvement of imagination across all sectors of society. Currently, there is little consensus on how to objectively measure imagination. To achieve its mission, the Imagination Institute is holding a grants competition and a series of events to lay the foundation for the long-term development of an “Imagination Quotient” and how to build imagination.
See The Imagination Instutute for more information.