Scientific creativity in psychology: a cognitive-conative approach


Which features are important for creativity in the social sciences? Based on the typical profiles for creativity in different domains, we expected intelligence, openness to new experiences, emotional stability, introversion and low agreeableness to be important for scientific creativity.

For being considered as creative, a product must be original and effective. Based on existing literature, intelligence, openness and extraversion are thought to favour originality whereas emotional stability and conscientiousness are thought to favour effectiveness.

Neuroticism and agreeableness are thought not to distinguish between both creative problem solving types.

Creativity is presently often measured through a combination of divergent and convergent thinking tests. Divergent thinking refers to the ability to produce many alternative solutions, while convergent thinking refers to the ability to discover the unique correct solution.

For testing divergent thinking, participants had to invent as many original hypotheses as possible concerning the link between music style and personality. An example would be that conservative people prefer classical music and extraverted people prefer Hip-Hop.

For convergent thinking, participants had to choose one of these hypotheses and invent an original experiment to test it. This experiment was rated for originality and adaptation to methodological requirements. For example, one participant wanted to test the link between listening to carnival music and drinking beer. He wanted to go to a carnival party and measure the amount of beer consumption and spillage.

This experiment is indeed very original, however not adapted to methodological constraints. Is beer drinking really a personality trait? Wouldn’t we need to compare the amount of beer consumed and spilt at another kind of festival?

It turned out that convergent thinking was predicted by openness and divergent thinking by low agreeableness. This means that more disagreeable people invented a larger number of creative hypotheses concerning the link between music preference and personality.

This is a hint that disagreeable people can more easily overcome social barriers and stereotypes because in the end, the link between music style and personality, is very much stereotype loaded.

To conclude, creative social scientists are above all intelligent and open people but sometimes disagreeable.

Co-authors: Todd Lubart, Henderika de Vries and Claude Houssemand.
Citation: Kirsch, C., Lubart, T., de Vries, H., & Houssemand, C. (2016). Scientific creativity in psychology: A cognitive-conative approach. In C. Zhou (Ed.), Handbook of research on creative problem-solving skill development in higher education. Hershey, PA: IGI Global. doi:10.4018/978-1-5225-0643-0.
Figure legend: Creativity in psychology.