In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Creativity

  • Introduction
  • Classic Works
  • General Overviews
  • Summary Articles
  • Special Issues of Journals
  • Creativity-Specific Journals
  • Transdisciplinary Journals
  • Recent Developments

Psychology Creativity
Ronald A. Beghetto
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 November 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 November 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0139


Creativity is a complex and compelling psychological phenomenon. To understand creativity is to understand the varied individual, social, cultural, and historical factors that impinge on it. Although creativity has always been a topic that has engaged the interest and imagination of researchers and laypeople alike, it has had a somewhat turbulent history in the field of psychology. Indeed, the psychological study of creativity remained something of a niche until the 1990s. This is no longer the case. The steady efforts of creativity scholars—working since the mid-20th century and around the globe—have greatly expanded our understanding of creativity. In the early 21st century the field of creativity studies represents one of the most active, challenging, and important areas of psychological inquiry.

Classic Works

Research psychologists largely neglected creativity as an area of serious study until the 1950s. The catalyzing event for the psychological study of creativity was Joy P. Guilford’s presidential address to the American Psychological Association (Guilford 1950), in which he noted that creativity was a topic in need of serious scientific study and charged research psychologists with the goal of understanding the nature of creativity and discovering how best to cultivate it. In the years following Guilford’s address, creativity research proliferated. The establishment of several national centers and institutes greatly advanced the psychological study of creativity. Two key examples are the Institute of Personality Assessment and Research (IPAR), directed by Donald W. MacKinnon, at the University of California, Berkeley (see MacKinnon 1975), and the Center for the Study of Creativity and Mental Health, directed by Morris I. Stein, first at the University of Chicago. In addition to the development of institutes and centers, key historical events included a series of influential Utah creativity conferences, starting in 1955, organized by Calvin W. Taylor (see Taylor 1956). These conferences brought together some of the most influential creativity researchers and published their papers in conference proceedings. The infrastructure provided by these centers, institutes, and conferences afforded the context, resources, and opportunities necessary for early creativity researchers to make lasting contributions to the field. Ravenna Helson, Frank X. Barron, and E. Paul Torrance are examples of early creativity researchers who leveraged these early opportunities into contributions that continue to reverberate throughout the field. Helson 1999, for example, engages in pioneering longitudinal research, dating back to 1957, that explores the intersection of creativity, personality, and gender. Barron 1963 reports on a program of research, also starting in the 1950s, in which the author and his colleagues examined the relationship between creativity and personality by studying accomplished creative writers, architects, research scientists, and mathematicians. Torrance, an educational psychologist, was another influential creativity research pioneer. Torrance 1963 developed a program of research that looked at the nurturance (and suppression) of creativity in educational settings. Torrance’s work resulted in the creation of one of the most popular, albeit contested (see Theoretical Perspectives: Psychometric), sets of measurement instruments used in contemporary creativity research. The earnest efforts of these early pioneers helped legitimize the psychological study of creativity and lay down a fertile soil from which creativity research could take root. It is no wonder that contemporary creativity researchers often refer to these early efforts as the golden age of creativity research.

  • Barron, Frank. 1963. Creativity and psychological health: Origins of personal vitality and creative freedom. Princeton, NJ: Van Nostrand.

    Summarizes Barron’s program of research in the 1950s and early 1960s, including detailed description of several studies and findings from the “lived in” assessments that pertain to creativity, personality, and psychological health.

  • Guilford, J. P. 1950. Creativity. American Psychologist 5.9: 444–454.

    DOI: 10.1037/h0063487

    Guilford’s presidential address to the American Psychological Association, which served as a catalyst for the serious psychological study of creativity. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

  • Helson, Ravenna. 1999. A longitudinal study of creativity personality in women. Creativity Research Journal 12.2: 89–101.

    DOI: 10.1207/s15326934crj1202_2

    This article reports on a pioneering thirty-year longitudinal study exploring the creative potential and personality of one hundred college women. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

  • MacKinnon, Donald W. 1975. IPAR’s contribution to the conceptualization and study of creativity. In Perspectives in creativity. Edited by Irving A. Taylor and J. W. Getzels, 60−89. Chicago: Aldine.

    Gives a historical account of the role that IPAR played in conceptualizing the facets of creativity and outlining major research questions for systematic psychological study of creativity.

  • Taylor, Calvin W., ed. 1956. The 1955 University of Utah Research Conference on the Identification of Creative Scientific Talent, Held at Alpine Rose Lodge, Brighton, Utah, August 27–30, 1955. Salt Lake City: Univ. of Utah Press.

    This text includes papers and committee reports that were presented at the first Utah conference organized by Taylor. The majority of the papers focus on the nature and measurement of creativity.

  • Torrance, E. Paul. 1963. Education and the creative potential. Modern School Practices. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press.

    An early text, in which Torrance summarizes his theoretical and empirical work.

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