Wayne State University
College of Lifelong Learning
Interdisciplinary Studies Program
Winter, 1999
Creativity: Building the New
ISP 5500 Section# 981, Call# 90577, 4 cr and
ISP 5990 Section# 981, Call# 95268, 4 cr
Course web site: http://www.cll.wayne.edu/isp/drbowen/crtvyw99

Last updated 2/14/99
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Ideational Fluency and
other Characteristics of Creative Individuals

Several Creativity researchers, including Howard Gardner and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, have written about fluency of ideas and similar concepts as characteristic of creative individuals, especially in the context of  being able to train people to enhance these characteristics. However, these mentions have not been systematic or complete. I   found one of the important articles in this area, and it is summarized below. The article is

J.P. Guilford, 'Traits of creativity' in H.H. Anderson (ed.), Creativity and its Cultivation, Harper, 1959, pp 142-61, reprinted in P.E. Vernon (ed.), Creativity, Penguin Books, 1970, pp 167-88.

The article reports on a study in which subjects took tests measuring various aptitudes or skills, and were also rated for creativity. If the score for an aptitude or skill correlates well with creativity ratings, then that aptitude or skill is held to be an important characteristic of creative people.

Category Example(s)
BigBull.gif (844 bytes)Ability to see or sensitivity to problems Can state difficulties or deficiencies in common products or in social institutions, make judgement that desired goals in a described situation have not been achieved.
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BigBull.gif (844 bytes)Fluency of thinking Able to think well and effortlessly
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Check.gif (857 bytes) Word fluency Can easily state words containing a given letter or combination of letters
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Check.gif (857 bytes) Associational fluency Can easily state synonyms for a given word
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Check.gif (857 bytes) Expressional fluency Can easily write well-formed sentences with a specified content.
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Check.gif (857 bytes) Ideational fluency Can easily produce ideas to fulfill certain requirements, for example to name objects that hare hard, white and edible, or to write an appropriate title for a given story.
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BigBull.gif (844 bytes)Flexibility of thinking Can easily abandon old ways of thinking and adopt new ones.
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Check.gif (857 bytes) Spontaneous flexibility Can produce a great variety of ideas. For example in suggesting uses for a brick, subject can jump among categories, from building material to weight to missile to source of red powder.
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Check.gif (857 bytes) Adaptive flexibility Can generalize requirements of a problem to find a solution. For example, in a problem of forming squares using a minimum number of lines, can abandon the usual idea that all squares have to be the same size.
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BigBull.gif (844 bytes) Originality Comes up with ideas that are statistically unusual
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Check.gif (857 bytes) Remote associations Forms associations between elements that are remote from each other in time, or remote from each other logically
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Check.gif (857 bytes) Responses are judged to be clever
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BigBull.gif (844 bytes) Redefinition - gives up old interpretations of familiar objects and uses them in new ways Which of the following objects could best be used to make a needle: pencil, radish, shoe, fish, carnation? (fish - use bone)
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BigBull.gif (844 bytes) elaboration - can fill in details given a general scheme Given a general task, fill in the detailed steps. Given two simple lines, draw a more complex object/
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BigBull.gif (844 bytes) Tolerance of ambiguity Willingness to accept some uncertainty in conclusions, not using rigid categories
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BigBull.gif (844 bytes) Interest in convergent thinking Thinking towards one right answer, as in solving a mathematical problem stated in a textbook
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BigBull.gif (844 bytes) Interest in divergent thinking Open-ended thinking, where there is not a single right answer

Again, these were found to be common properties of creative individuals. There was a considerable effort put into training people to have these characteristics, in the hope of increasing their creativity. Indeed, according to several recent authors, such as Csikszentmihalyi, this is still done, and most creativity training involves these characteristics.

However, while such training can increase the level of the characteristics, it does not do much for increasing levels of creativity. What is going on? Gardner, Csikszentmihalyi and others say that evidently creative individuals must have these characteristics at some level, but other factors are much more important. This is similar to the situation with intelligence. Up to a certain level, intelligence helps, but there are many people who are not creative, who are more intelligent that people who are creative. Objective mental characteristics and abilities are apparently only a very small part of the creativity puzzle. Motivation -- living the work -- seems to be much more important. And some luck in childhood, of having close but not confining contact with a field of interest and some early success in that field, is important.