Education Creativity
James C. Kaufman
  • LAST REVIEWED: 21 April 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 December 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0008


Although creativity has been debated and discussed by all types of scholars throughout history, it has only been since the 1950s that the topic has emerged as a genuine field of study. Most work on creativity typically revolves around one of the four Ps: process, person, product, or press (environment). In addition, there is typically a distinction made between Big-C (genius level) and little-c (everyday level). The emphasis on how creativity is approached often depends on the domain; most research on creativity in education focuses on little-c. “Hot” topics within the field include best practices for measurement; the question of domain specificity or domain generality (Is creativity one thing or many things?); and the relationship of creativity with other constructs, such as personality, motivation, and intelligence.

General Overviews

Some books take a broad approach to creativity, either reviewing the field or offering a different perspective. Runco 2007 focuses on the history of creativity research, whereas Sawyer 2006 emphasizes group creativity and the sociocultural mechanisms that can aid creativity. Kaufman 2009 takes an individual differences approach, discussing how creative people are alike or different. Weisberg 2006 and Finke, et al. 1992 take cognitive perspectives: Weisberg 2006 emphasizes problem solving and its underlying processes; Finke, et al. 1992 uses cognitive science to study how the mind creates. More all-encompassing reference works include the handbooks Sternberg 1999 and Kaufman and Sternberg 2010, as well as the encyclopedia Runco and Pritzker 1999. These three books have chapters or entries on nearly everything discussed in this bibliography.

  • Finke, Ronald A., Thomas B. Ward, and Steven M. Smith. 1992. Creative cognition: Theory research and applications. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    Finke, Ward, and Smith’s Geneplore model is presented here. Generation, the “novel” part, is generating many different ideas. Exploration refers to evaluating these possible options and choosing the best one (or ones).

  • Kaufman, James C. 2009. Creativity 101. New York: Springer.

    Kaufman offers a primer on recent research in creativity, with an emphasis on individual differences (mental illness, gender and ethnicity, personality, motivation, and intelligence).

  • Kaufman, James C., and Robert J. Sternberg, eds. 2010. The Cambridge handbook of creativity. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    This handbook is focused both on how creativity has been perceived over time by different areas of study (including recent perspectives such as evolutionary psychology and neuroscience) and on hot topics (such as creativity and mental illness) that are still being debated.

  • Runco, Mark A. 2007. Creativity: Theories and themes; Research, development, and practice. San Diego, CA: Elsevier Academic.

    This book is designed to be a textbook of the field, with an emphasis on creativity’s rich history.

  • Runco, Mark A., and Steven R. Pritzker, eds. 1999. Encyclopedia of creativity. 2 vols. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

    This two-volume encyclopedia covers a wide array of topics, from specific theories to empirical phenomena to individual creators.

  • Sawyer, R. Keith. 2006. Explaining creativity: The science of human innovation. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    Sawyer takes a sociocultural focus, arguing that creativity can be understood only in the social and cultural contexts in which it occurs. According to Sawyer, an idea that is creative in one sociocultural milieu might not be in another.

  • Sternberg, Robert J., ed. 1999. Handbook of creativity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    This handbook presents many key theories and reviews in the field, including key work by Csikszentmihalyi, Gruber, and Martindale. Even after more than a decade, it is still an outstanding reference.

  • Weisberg, R. W. 2006. Creativity: Understanding innovation in problem solving, science, invention, and the arts. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

    Weisberg argues that the thinking processes used by the average person when being creative are the same as those used by geniuses. Even if the final product may not be remembered for generations, we are all capable of productive and creative thought.

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