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THE PSYCHOLOGY OF CREATIVE THINKING 1

Abstract

Some psychological processes and factors behind creative or divergent thinking are
discussed such as; forgetting, gender equality of the mind, the neuropeptide Oxytocin, moods
in music along with moods and emotions in humans, and self-concepts. It is suggested that
creative processing is a very instrumental and vital resource in life
especial y in todays society. Convergent thinking is briefly reviewed as the framework
for divergent thinking since it consists of logical elementary fashions of thought that form
our more popular expansions into the realm of the subconscious and abstract unknown.
Survival of the fittest and other naturalistic theories are interpreted as being intertwined
with creative thinking since outlandish new ideas seem to be the power behind the engine
that creates the future. It is concluded that more research is needed to explore just where
are imaginations start, how to improve their quality, and if they have an end. Keywords:
creative thinking, divergent thinking, convergent thinking, processing, Oxytocin,
ideation, approach orientation, mental fixation, Mozart effect, creative originalit
The Psychology of Creative Thinking

Creative thinking is one of the many thought processes, which humans possess in a
cognitive state. Creative thinking, also known as divergent thinking, is the ability to find
unorthodox or imaginative solutions to regular or even sometimes irregular problems or
situations that one would run into in everyday life. The creative ability to find an abstract
solution in a plethora of ordinary scenarios not only allows for a means of survival, but
also to excel, to think outside the box. In todays society, success is mostly found when
one differentiates themselves from others in a creative way. This can be observed in
celebrities such as; movie stars, musicians, artists, writers, chefs and so on. It is also seen
in normal jobs. For example, a member of companys marketing team may come up with
a new advertisement that boost sales; by thinking creatively this employee will most
likely be rewarded and has become more successful.
Divergent thinking plays off of convergent thinking, which is a thought process that
follows a structured path to reach an answer. With this process, the solution found is the,
correct one (Callaghan & Growney, 2013). It may be the most basic, however, it is not
guaranteed to be the easiest or most efficient. Creative thinking enables the cognitive
ability to work smart and not hard. The foundation of economics is to allocate a limited
number of resources, due to scarcity. In a world ruled by the economy, it is more
beneficial to think creatively and to be efficient, to be ahead of the curve than to be
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average or ordinary. Any chance taken to move forward is well worth it in a world where
it is so easy to be lef t behind.
Sources of Creative Ideation
The ability to think divergently seems to be related to the survival of the fittest concepts, but
more like the survival of the smartest. The most intelligent people are most likely to
advance in todays society, simply because they are intelligent. However, even if a subject
was considered to have an average intelligence, they could choose to think divergently and
still be successful. Divergent thinking is in human DNA, and structured through evolution;
the ability to think creatively is pronounced with oxytocin, a hypothalamic neuropeptide
(De Dreu et al., 2014). From the tests conducted by De Dreu et al. (2014), it was shown
that oxytocin is found in both humans and animals and improves approach orientation, all
owing the subjects to think more creatively and less analytically. Approach orientation, or
goal orientation theory concerns individuals who are positively incentivized to achieve.
Approach orientation has been linked to creative ideation and an increase in capacity of
divergent thinking for problem solving, opposed to convergent thinking (De Dreu et al.,
2014).

Forgetting to Create
Thinking leads to forgetting and forgetting leads to creative thinking (Storm & Patel, 2014).
Subjects were tested and asked to study the uses for different household objects and then
asked to find new uses for them; the subjects who tried to generate new ideas were more
apt to forget the studied uses and the participants that used the studied uses as clues to
create new uses did not forget them (Storm & Patel, 2014). Subjects who forgot were
observed to in-turn, be more creative and think more divergently than their counterparts.
According to Storm and Patel (2014), the forgetting effect correlated with individual
differences in creativity such that participants who
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exhibited more forgetting generated more creative uses than participants who exhibited
less forgetting (p. 1594).

Sometimes we need to know things or have a preexisting knowledge of something in order


to create something new, this is usually where convergent thinking lays the groundwork.
However, sometimes knowledge of old ideas or concepts can sometimes impede the
creative process and keep new ideas from forming (Storm & Patel, 2014). Storm & Patel
(2014), describe this as Mental Fixation, this can happen while remembering, solving
problems, or generating creative ideas (p. 1594). Forgetting plays an important part in
overcoming fixation and therefore and lead to new ideas or divergent thinking (storm &
Patel, 2014). Storm & Patel (2014), said, Thus, to understand creativity we must
attempt to understand the noncreative processes that support it, and the present findings
suggest that forgetting may be one such process (p. 1605).

Music & Mood


A study was conducted on college students based off of happy, sad and neutral moods
induced by film and music (Callaghan & Growney, 2013). They were induced into these
states of emotion by observing a video and then listening to music while performing a
prescribed task; two of the test groups were congruent, where the video and the music
induced the same emotions; and two were incongruent, where the video and the music
induced different moods (Callaghan & Growney, 2013). As stated by Callaghan & Growney
(2013), the researches expected the happy moods to increase the task scores or creative
ability while on the other hand they expected the sad or neutral
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induced moods not to have any significant effect on the participants task scores or creative
ability. However, the hypothesis was only half right. It was shown that the subjects who were
in a happy mood scored higher on the tasks than subjects in a neutral mood; although the
subjects who were sad also scored higher on the creative tasks than did the ones in the neutral
mood (Callaghan & Growney, 2013). This information presented a conclusion that the
heightened emotions of both happiness and sadness stimulated original thought or divergent
thinking (p. 165).

This study was inspired by the Mozart Effect which is a controversial theory that says music may
enhance creativeness or spatial reasoning; the fault in this study is that since the mood was
induced with music, the researchers are not certain on if the music promoted divergent thinking or
if it was the induced mood after all (Callaghan & Growney, 2013). It was concluded that
happy people preferred happy music and that sad people preferred sad music, if theses
combinations of moods were ideal the scores on the divergent thinking tasks were higher
(Callaghan & Growney, 2013). After retesting the experiment without the neutral variable, with
video clips to induce mood instead of music and with music playing in the background during
the creative thinking task; it was found that a combination of elevated moods and congruent
music promotes original thought (Callaghan & Growney, 2013).

Mood inspires people to do what they choose to do in everyday life. It is not surprising that there
is a correlation found between mood and creative ideation (De Dreu et al., 2014). Most
musicians write their best works in times of elevated emotions, this is just one example of how
heightened mood sensitivity effects creative ability. When a subjects moods are congruent with the
moods in the music being listened to, is when the person is most productive or creative
(Callaghan & Growney, 2013).
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Gender and Divergent Thinking


Two studies were conducted and published in 2013, one in Egypt and one in China. This
research focused on finding out if gender makes a difference in ones ability to think divergently
and creatively. The subjects in both studies were children or adolescences and were given tests to
measure creative potential; the test used in the Egyptian study is cal ed a (TCT-DP), or the Test
of Creative Thinking-Drawing Production (Sayed & Mohamed, 2013). According to Sayed &
Mohamed (2013), the (TCT-DP) is widely used as a measure of creative potential based on
constrained production of figural elements into certain drawings. The (TCT-DP) was developed in
1996 and abides by fourteen criteria; Continuations, Completions, New Elements, Connections
(lines), Connections (themes), Boundary-breaking [Fragment-dependent], Boundary-breaking
[Fragment- independent], Perspective, Humor, and Unconventionalities such as (manipulations);
these are all counted and averaged to gain insight to ones divergent ability (Sayed & Mohamed,
2013). Interestingly enough there was not any real correlation found between gender and divergent
thinking in Egypt if any big differences at all. The Inconsistencies arise however, by grade; on
average, students around the 4th, 5th and 6th grades began to show declines in creative ability; the
researchers attributed this to the pressure of conformity (Sayed & Mohamed, 2013). On the other
hand, the study that was conducted in China at the same time, claims that male superiority exists
(He et al., 2013). Stated by He et al. (2013), males showed

a greater variance in the variability of creativity than did females; the female subjects averaged
around the central region and lower scales on the statistical tests. The same (TCT-DP) tests were
used in the Chinese study as were in the Egyptian study; therefore, variation between the two
countrys results in the gender equality of creative processing must be due to the cultural
environment (He et al., 2013). The score may vary from region to region but overall the test
results well represent both China and Egypt. It is uncertain based on the information provided
from the two studies, if the gender equality of divergent thinking of the world is more heavily
weighed on the male or female side.
Geographical and cultural norms seem to play a part in gender superiority, however, that is
just speculation until more studies are conducted in order to finally find an answer.

Self-Image and Creative Processing


Zabelina & Robinson (2010), mention the following: Being open to and moved by ones own
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suffering, experiencing feelings of caring and kindness toward oneself, taking an understanding,
nonjudgmental attitude toward ones inadequacies and failures, and recognizing that ones experience
is part of the common human experience. People who judge themselves severely and look down upon
themselves with a negative self-image are less likely to express divergent processing, opposed to a
person who is more self-compassionate ( Zabelina & Robinson, 2010). A study was preformed
where 86 college students who were prone to heightened self-criticism were separated into two
groups (Zabelina & Robinson, 2010). One group was given a control condition and the other with a
self-compassion condition; then both groups were then given versions of the Torrance Test of
Creative Thinking or (TTCT) (Zabelina & Robinson, 2010). As shown by Zabelina & Robinson
(2010), subjects who were part of the control condition and who had low self-judgment scored
high in creative originality; and as expected, subjects in the control condition who had high self-
judgment scored low in creative originality. In the self-compassion condition group, the
subjects with a low self-judgment actual y scored lower than the control
condition group, and the subjects with high self-judgment scored higher in creative
originality than did the control condition group (Zabelina & Robinson, 2010). Zabelina &
Robinson (2010), continue to explain how sex and moods also may play rolls in ones creative
originality based upon weather or not the subject had a low or high self-judgment. It is mentioned
that students who were depressed were prone to being more self-critical and having a high
self-judgment (Zabelina & Robinson, 2010). As regression tests were conducted on the male and
female samples, it was concluded that there was no significant correlation between sex and
creative originality and that the results given were equal y characteristic of both men and women
(Zabelina & Robinson, 2010, p. 291). It is concluded that the induction of self-compassionate
mindsets is more beneficial for subjects with high self-judgment and who are more critically hard on
themselves because they close off their creative originality abilities by limit ing their mental scope;
they self-impose restrictions to their creative out-put (Zabelina & Robinson, 2010, p.292). On the
other hand, self-compassion therapy doesnt work as wel for individuals who are already less self
critical and have a low self-judgment, because they dont require the extra assistance (Zabelina&
Robinson, 2010). Being originally creative requires some degree of risk-taking to go outside the
norm; creative ability seems to rely on the individuals wil ingness or ability to ignore the self-
censorship society and cultural environments place on the mind and create new original ideas
through divergent thinking (Zabelina & Robinson, 2010).
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Conclusion

In conclusion, creative thinking is a lot more than just thinking outside the box. After seeing
how anatomy, other thought process, moods, music, gender, and self- concept along with
geographical location and cultural environment effect how humans think, there is a much greater
perspective to be had on how the human mind operates and functions against societal norms and inner
controversies. Further research should be done on where exactly are creative talents come from and
how Oxytocin plays a roll in contributing to further creative openness and less restrictive analytical
boundaries. Divergent thinking may seem as if it is just a stage of cognition, or just a single element
on top of logical convergent processing, but it is much more than that. Creative thinking is not only a
way of life and survival, but a pathway to success and prosperity.