What Makes People ‘Creative’? A Complex Look Into Creativity

 

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Necessity is the mother of invention.

You’ve heard this proverb before, right?  Basically, when stuck in a situation that requires something to change, the individual will create a new device or method to improve the situation.

But after reading Tim Vernimmen’s article Where Creativity Comes From, published for Scientific American, the proverb gets a new spin. The article focuses on a study done by Carel van Schaik of the University of Zurich, which reports behavioral patterns of orangutans when their food availability becomes insufficient. Instead of getting creative, they fell into energy-saving mode, essentially minimizing their movements and eating whatever unappealing foods they could find.

Fortified by another study by economist Sendhil Mullainathan of Harvard University, we learn that reminding people of their financial struggles does not lead to innovative solutions. The bottom line is that difficulty doesn’t always lead to creativity, but preoccupation with meeting daily needs such as food and paying bills leave little opportunity to create innovative solutions.

“So if you ask me, opportunity is the mother of invention.” ~Carel van Schaik

 Mullainathan’s article highlights an important question: how complex is creativity and how can we pin down what makes an individual ‘creative’?

The creative mind is not primarily prompted by the need to survive. In fact, several studies state that individuals are ‘creative’ thanks to their mental flow. While the left brain is known to be a more analytical, linear, and disciplined thinker—and the right brain is more artistic, visual, and imaginative—the complexity of creativity goes way beyond that.

 

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