Saturday, August 26, 2017

J. P. Guilford Discovers Empathy in the Creative Process

J. P. Guilford

Donald W. MacKinnon credited J. P. Guilford with stirring the scientific study of creativity with a presidential address to the American Psychological Association in 1950. Guilford is best remembered for his psychometric study of human intelligence, including the distinction between convergent and divergent production. He proposed that three dimensions were necessary for an accurate description: operations, content, and products.

In November 1964, The UCLA Brain Research Institute, in conjunction with the United States Air Force Office of Scientific Research, sponsored a conference on Brain Function and Learning, the proceedings of which were published in 1967.   In one session titled Creativity and Learning, Guilford characterized creativity as a learning process.

In addition to expanding the definition of creativity Guilford brought in another element which would not gain traction for another half century; empathy. What follows is an edited extract from Guilford's presentation;

"It is quite appropriate that there should be a session devoted to creativity in a conference on learning. A broad, non-popular view of creativity recognizes an act as creative when there is something novel about it; novel, that is, for the person performing the act. The act must also be relevant, a qualification added to distinguish the creative output from the productions of the schizophrenic or manic.

Novel behavior means a change in behavior, and change means learning when “learning” is defined as a relatively enduring change in behavior as a consequence of behavior...

The conclusion that learning and creativity are much the same phenomenon can be reached by another route. From my fifteen years of study of the intellectual aspects of creative production, it seems apparent to me that creative thinking can be equated essentially with problem solving.

Identifying these two phenomena with each other does seem to deglamorize the topic of creativity, and perhaps takes away some of its mystery. On the other hand, it gives some added significance to problem solving, which has been quite commonly recognized as an important instance of learning. 

By its nature, a genuine problem is a cognized situation for which the organism appreciates that it has no ready coping response; something new or novel must be done - in other words, a creative act. I use the term “appreciates” here deliberately, within implications of either conscious or human qualities."

Guilford's Model of Brian Function

In the area of behavioral information - my students found evidence for, and I added a category with, six new factors… the kind we get from cues other people give us (through what we see or hear) about our own states of mind, feelings, intentions, perceptions and so on. This represents what some people call the area of “social intelligence”, or the area including “empathy”, which may be equated with behavioral cognition."

nGram of Creativity and Empathy.

Creativity and Empathy doesn't begin to appear the in literature much until after 1960, with local peaks in 1970 and 1990. One paper; Promoting Creativity in Young Children, (2000) associated creativity and empathy in childhood education. n it, Alice Sterling Honig specifically addressed the relationship between creativity and empathy for others. Another reference is found in Martha Raile Alligood (1986); The relationship of creativity, actualization, and empathy in unitary human development.

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