United Platform for Creativity in Education

2018 Symposium Abstracts

Talk 1: Are there alternatives to the creativity-as-trait approach? A first attempt

By Prof. Dr. Paul Leseman (Utrecht University)

Overlooking, as a relative outsider, the past decade of creativity research makes a bit sad. And there is strong feeling of déja vu. Research has focused on measuring creativity with tests and standardized procedures, and entered the alley – the dead-end alley as some critics maintain – of establishing individual differences, correlating measures of creativity to intelligence and executive function, and dividing creativity in domain-general and domain-specific components. Techniques well-known from research into personality, intelligence and executive functions have been applied, foremost confirmative factor analysis with multiple indicators of a latent trait. In doing so, creativity has appeared as a moderately stable personality trait across situations and tasks, showing individual differences and in most studies high correlations with intelligence and executive functions, making one wonder what is new here. Conceptually, creativity has suffered the fate of intelligence: creativity is what is measured by a creativity test, much like operational definitions of intelligence. There are several costs. We know still very little about creativity as a process, that is, how people find creative solutions or come at original ideas. And, as with intelligence, it is difficult to identify starting points for changing education to foster creativity. In my talk I will outline an alternative approach that focuses on the process of creative action. Following leads in perception-action and embodied cognition theories, I will outline a model of creativity-as-situated-action that resembles how people in a concrete situation can discover the use of an object in a novel way as a tool to operate on another object for a useful outcome. As this initial model is grounded in sensorimotor action in concrete situations, the challenge is to find out whether this grounded-situated approach can also be applied to verbal creativity. A first modest attempt.


Talk 2: Embodied creativity: A social and cultural perspective

By Associate Prof. Dr. Vlad Glavenau (Webster University Geneva)

In this talk I consider the ways in which creativity is embodied from the standpoint of sociocultural psychology. Within this framework, it is not only the  biological body that participates within creative activity, but the entire person as a social and cultural being. In capturing this often ignored dimension of creativity, I draw here on the notions of action, position, perspective, and affordance – relational concepts that across the usual dichotomies between person and context, self and other, material and symbolic. I will argue that it is in and through action that we become embodied creative actors and that creative actions involve acts of repositioning, of perspective taking, as well as the use of previously unperceived affordances. Taken together, the sociocultural framework portrays creativity as a psycho-socio-material process and has several implications for how we assess and cultivate creativity in a variety of domains, from education and business to health.


Pitch 1: Turning insight out:  the making of creativity

By Prof. dr. Frédéric Vallée – Tourangea (Kingston University London) & Paul March (Oxford University)

Traditionally, psychological attempts to understand  creative activity and problem solving have relied upon the evocation of mental states: in particular the mythical notion of “insight”. We present two converging perspectives that describe a profoundly different ontological description of creativity for which we have coined the word “outsight”. First, we review recent experimental research to demonstrate the poverty of a psychometric model of problem solving that is based upon cognitive or dispositional capacities (mental states).  Instead we show that, if mental simulation is replaced by the opportunity to engage with a physical model of a problem, then the environment can provide affordances that help the participant to solve problems. Second, we present the subjective experience of an artist as he monitors the micro-decisions that occur during the morphogenesis of a large, clay, sculptural installation. The testimony is a vivid demonstration that creative action occurs, not in the brain, but in the movement between the hand and the clay. From laboratory task to sculptural endeavour,  we argue that there is no need to open a black box to make sense of creative shifts. They happen in plain view – as moments of outsight.


Pitch 2: Situated Creativity in a Dynamic Perspective: Estimation is more than Judgment

By Prof. dr. Giovanni E. Corazza (University of Bologna)

While the creative thinking process is never an isolated exercise, it can be argued that there are instances in which the idea generation phase can be considered a purely individual exercise, whence dialogues happen introspectively. On the contrary, the presentation of these ideas to the outside world is intrinsically an interaction involving both the “generator(s)” and those who are typically called “judges”. Introducing a Dynamic Creativity Framework, we propose that the latter label be replaced by “estimators”, indicating a different mindset and a form of assessment of potentially creative ideas that leads to their transformation. Indeed, the culture of the human species can be shown to have grown thanks to this distributed, co-creating, never-ending, iterative interaction among generators and estimators, across our history.


Pitch 3: The Social Distribution of Identity in Traumatized Youth

By Adjunct Assistant Prof. Michael Hanchett Hanson (Teachers College, Columbia University)

The creation of self has been a longstanding theme in creativity discourse. Another has been the roles of art as an inherently creative act in meaning making in general and education in particular. This presentation describes a situation where these themes come together: a series of socially distributed processes through which a theater-based, youth development program transforms the participants’ sense of self. The program has been shown to have significant impacts on social skills, and the participants consistently describe it as “transformative.” That transformation occurs through development of community and the sharing of stories, rather than the owning or authorship of one’s own story. For these often severely traumatized youth, being able to face and manage their life experiences comes from multiple mechanisms by which the group and its diverse members identify with all of the individual stories. In other words, the emergence of resilience is a socially distributed process, a crucial by-product of the development of community.


Pitch 4: Weaving creativity into therapy: Embodiment and textile art

By Catherine Butterly  (Webster University Geneva) & Cynthia Frances Uccello (Common Threads Project) 

Many years after wars and displacement end, survivors are still paying the psychological costs of their traumatic experiences. Common Threads Project’s (CTP) mission is to help women heal from enduring psychological effects of war, displacement and sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) related to this context. CTP aims to achieve its mission by building local capacity through training, researchable interventions and conducting efficacy studies.

CTP’s model, rooted in evidence from neuroplasticity and socio-cultural understanding of trauma, revives an ancient practice found in many different contexts; women come together to sew their stories onto cloth, to disclose the unspeakable atrocities they have experienced and support one another. CTP’s program integrates this tradition with best practices from trauma-informed therapy, mind-body work, sensorimotor work, breath work, and psycho-education. In situations where women can not narrate their experience because what they have endured has an ‘unspeakable quality – they are able through the Common Threads programme to enter a space of’ embodied creativity’ where they can re-experience their bodies without being pulled towards experiential avoidance. The textiles too become a type of ‘transitional object’ – a way of facing what they have suffered in an in-between space of ‘me and not-me’ and the textiles can contain their suffering in an embodied way. Although the purpose is not to produce a beautiful product, the processing of the trauma through the textiles with its embodied features becomes in itself a creative act.


Pitch 5: Creativity: Towards a situated-embodied cognition approach

By Marloes van Dijk (Utrecht University)

Although researchers emphasize the importance of studying creativity as a dynamic skill, most researchers still adopt a psychological trait perspective, in which creativity is assumed to be a stable, personality trait. We challenge this trait-view, and subscribe the view that cognitive processes, and actions that result from these processes, are to be regarded as situated-embodied. Following a situated-embodied cognition view, creativity can be defined as the emerging skill of an individual to discover complex affordances by combining other affordances. This process could lead to discovering and applying novel uses of objects, ideas, and solutions.

In a small sample study, we explored how primary school children made use of their surroundings while working on a visual Alternative Uses Task. We investigated the situatedness of creativity by comparing the verbal responses on a visual Alternative Uses Task of nine children in a low-stimulus environment with the responses of nine children in a stimulus-rich setting. Whereas the amount of verbal responses was found to be similar in both groups, children in the high-stimulus setting outperformed children in the low-stimulus setting on flexibility and originality. Furthermore, eye-movements were explored to identify specific gaze patterns. Results and implications will be discussed during the talk.


Pitch 6:Divergent thinking strategies apply in idea generation in 4-year-olds: examples of the embody-situated aspect of creativity

By Honghong Bai (Utrecht University)

Divergent thinking is as a core element of creativity. It involves individuals to generate multiple solutions to an open-ended situation (e.g., problem, artistic creation, etc.). In empirical studies, an individuals’ ability to think divergently is mostly evaluated by tasks such as Alternative Use Task (AUT) and indicated by summary scores such as fluency and originality. However, from a cognitive perspective, these summary scores provide little information with regard to how divergent thinking exactly happens and how novel ideas are generated. To unravel the process underlying divergent thinking, Gilhooly and colleagues asked university students to think aloud while generating unusual uses for familiar objects (i.e. AUT). In the current study, we applied the same methodology to investigate how 4-year-olds could think divergently in generating uses. However, instead of asking children to think aloud, we continuously used dialogues to provoke children to think more uses as well as to explain their thinking process of generating different ideas. By analyzing the transcribed dialogues, we found that children generated uses not only based on their memory but also based on other stimulus-related or stimulus-unrelated cues. The use of these cues, as in accordance with Gilhooly et al.’s study, were conceptualized as divergent thinking strategies. Among all found strategies, two of them seem to reflect the embody-situated aspect of creativity: (1) children imagine that they could disassemble a target stimulus or assemble the target stimulus with other objects to reach a use; and (2) children look around the test environment to find a cue and based on this they generate a use. In this symposium pitch, I will present examples in which children used these strategies in their process of idea generation, and report how the use of these strategies correlate to individuals’ summary scores of fluency and originality.