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The psychology of creativity and creative thinking

The psychology of creativity and creative thinking

May 6, 2021

Even today, the beginning of research and studies on the field of knowledge of creativity can be considered as very recent.

The first contributions of authors such as Bonus , Osborn or Torrance They date from the sixties onwards, so the practical application of everything found at the theoretical level in schools is still scarce and insufficient.

What is creativity?

From the field of psychology the experts who have approached this topic define creativity as a process of elaboration of original products through unorthodox ways, starting from the information available and with the purpose of solving problems or self-realization of the individual (in so far as it allows a development of personal intellectual abilities).


A) Yes, Guiford He highlighted the characteristic skills of creative individuals: fluency, flexibility, originality and divergent thinking (on the other hand, he highlighted the differences between creativity and intelligence). In the nineties, Csickszentmihalyi defined creativity as a state of consciousness to solve problems, in which three elements operate: field (place or discipline where it occurs), person (who performs the creative act) and domain (social group of experts). Finally, the most recent contribution of Mayers affirms the existence of five components of creativity: competence, imaginative thinking, audacity, intrinsic motivation and a creative environment.


On the other hand, it is worth highlighting the subjective character associated with creative capacity. This fact may have facilitated the generation of some erroneous beliefs regarding the concept of creativity, granting it a connotation of gift, of cognitive disorganization or of being necessarily related to a high cultural level as a prerequisite. Thus, there seems to be a consensus today to consider creativity as a human potential, which all individuals can access indistinctly. In keeping with this last, the set of social, cultural and historical influences become the main factors associated with the development of creativity .

How to develop creativity?

In order to define the concept of creativity and the methodology that can be put in place for its development and empowerment in schoolchildren, De Bono has proposed as essential elements of creative thinking the freedom of expression, the absence of inhibitions, the avoidance of critical judgmental judgments and the stimulation of new ideas during the creative process.


Among the techniques to use this author highlights the following, which favor the ability of analysis, synthesis, the application of logical reasoning and decision making:

  • Consider All Factors (CTF).
  • Employ Positive, Negative and Interesting reasoning (PNI).
  • Contemplate other Viewpoints (OPV).
  • Assess Consequences and Consequences (CS)
  • Take into account the Possibilities and Opportunities (PO).
  • Do not forget the Basic Priorities (PB).
  • Clearly define the Purposes, Goals and Objectives (PMO).
  • Search Alternatives, Possibilities and Options (APO)

Other techniques investigated correspond to the findings on methodologies such as the morphological analysis of Zwicky , the list of attributes of Crawford, the storm of ideas of Osborn, the divergent thought of De Bono, synectics or psychodrama, among others.

Related article: "The 14 keys to enhance creativity"

Convergent thinking and divergent thinking

In the response of the human being to the environment can differentiate, as scientific research has shown, two different ways of cognitive reaction: convergent thinking and the divergent thinking. The latter is also called primary, lateral, autistic or multiple thought and is characterized by not being subject to consciousness or follow the logical or simpler, present a highly symbolic character and be associated with fantasy or creative thinking.

On the contrary, convergent thinking, also known as secondary, vertical, realistic or sequential it operates opposite to the previous one: works consciously and following the connections between the elements in a logical way and more oriented to the external reality .

Cognitive, affective and environmental factors in the creative act

There are three main areas of influence that affect the nature of the creative process: cognitive, affective and environmental .

Cognitive factors

Cognitive factors refer to set of procedures that intervene both in the reception and in the elaboration of the information that is presented to the subject.

In the development of creative capacity the following cognitive processes have been found:

The perception

It refers to the capture of the information presented . To enhance creativity requires a complete opening of the senses that allow an optimal reception of external stimuli that facilitate the possibility of creation of the subject. It is important to get rid of prejudices and not very flexible evaluations, as well as a clear capacity to define the problems and tasks to be solved.

The elaboration process

It is linked to the conceptualization and delimitation of the relationship established between the different data. Its main feature is the multi-associative capacity to flexibly and simultaneously handle various types of information.

Different perspectives can be taken to assess the elaboration processes, such as: thinking styles (divergent or creative and convergent), thinking skills (fluency, flexibility and originality to offer original or novel answers) and thinking strategies (unconscious ways of organizing information based on the utility observed in its implementation in past situations).

Affective factors

Regarding the affective factors, we can distinguish some elements that appear as central

for the mobilization of creative potential:

  • The opening to experience : the degree of curiosity or interest in the context surrounding the individual, which maintains an open and positive attitude to external experiences and experiences them in a particular and alternative way.
  • Tolerance of ambiguity : the ability to stay calm in confused or unresolved situations avoiding falling into the precipitation of an impulsive response.
  • Positive self-esteem: acceptance of oneself and one's own particularities (both strengths and weaknesses).
  • Will of work : possess a high motivation for the completion of the tasks or purposes initiated.
  • Motivation to create : have a strong drive and interest in developing their own creations or participate in others'.

The environmental factors

Finally, environmental factors refer to the conditions of the physical and social context that facilitate the development and updating of creative potential . The environmental characteristics that favor creative expression are mainly self-confidence, security in the face of others and an appreciation of adaptive individual differences.

In addition, it has been proven that socially empathetic, authentic, congruent and accepting environments allow the individual to undertake new projects while minimizing fears of potential or unknown risks.

The stages of the creative process

The contributions made by Wallas in the middle of the last century based on his work that sought to sequence the process that occurs in all creative reasoning differentiated four main phases, which present a flexible and open character: preparation, incubation, lighting and the verification.

  • The preparation : the exhaustive formulation (and reformulation) of the problem is carried out taking all the possible directions for its resolution.
  • The incubation In order to be able to assimilate new approaches that do not disturb the clarity in the reasoning, there is a moment of pause and distance in the attempts of resolution of the task.
  • The lighting : phase in which suddenly or by alternative associations between the available elements the creative product is reached.
  • The verification : in this stage the implementation of the found solution is carried out, and subsequently an evaluation and verification of the applied process is carried out in order to find strengths and weaknesses.

The dimensions of creativity

In order to achieve a satisfactory individual development in the educational area a series of dimensions of creativity have been established as components of the maturational process, whose linking between them must have an interactive, dynamic and integrative character.

These dimensions are the following:

  • Axiological : need to know the reasons that motivated the human being to create certain values.
  • Affective : refers to the identification of cognitive products and to assess them as such.
  • Cognitive : relative to functionality and thinking ability.
  • Labor : defined by the development and transformation of cognitive products.
  • Playful : creativity has a fun component.
  • Participatory : it is linked to the collective application of creativity, enabling joint work between different students.
  • Communicative : the processes of creative reasoning facilitate dialogue, the ability to argue and understand the ideas generated.
  • Urban : Due to the spatial proximity between individuals, creative and dynamic tensions are produced that feed them back.

Obstacles in the development of creativity

The evidence that not all students are capable of developing creative responses with the same intensity before a task is palpable. Thus, there seems to be a consensus among experts on the subject that there are a set of factors that act as drawbacks or obstacles that limit students' internalization of this creative ability.

Among others, we can highlight: a coercive environment that does not allow the spontaneous expression of ideas, the tendency to judge and criticize different points of view, focus on pointing out exclusively the errors committed, based on inflexible and stereotyped methodologies, maintaining a distant attitude towards the others, to prevent the respect to the singularity of the individuals diminishing their self-confidence and fomenting the fear to the ridiculous, etc.

It seems that, although at birth all human beings possess the same capacity to develop creativity considerably, the existence of postnatal environmental factors play a discouraging role for said creative capacity , applying the practices described in the previous paragraph. It should, therefore, become aware of how much these practices are harming the whole of the students, since they are limiting the expression of a type of alternative, original and novel thought.

In conclusion

Creativity becomes a capacity that derives from the confluence of factors rather environmental, external and acquired. Therefore, it should promote its maximum development from the family and educational environment simultaneously.

For this, various barriers related to prejudices, criticisms and negative evaluations applied to alternative and / or unusual ways of solving a determined task, of exposing a reasoning, etc., which seem to be traditionally socially rooted must be overcome.

Bibliographic references

  • Csíkszentmihályi, M. (1998). Creativity, an Approach. Mexico.
  • De Bono, E. (1986): Lateral thinking. Spain: Paidós Editions.
  • Guilford, J.P., Strom, R.D. (1978). Creativity and Education Buenos Aires: Paidós Editions.

Lectures: Exploring the Psychology of Creativity (May 2021).


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