• Newsletters

Minsky’s thoughts on thinking

  • Daniel Klein archive page

Book cover of Inventive Minds

Marvin Minsky is famous for his many pioneering contributions to the field of artificial intelligence—including founding MIT’s first AI Lab. But Minsky, who died in 2016, also had a broader interest in human learning and cognition.

His thoughts on that topic are collected in Inventive Minds: Marvin Minsky on Education (MIT Press, 2018), which comprises six essays, many published here for the first time. Several of them sprang from a collaboration with the Media Lab’s Seymour Papert through the One Laptop Per Child project. Accompanied by commentary from former colleagues and students, the essays provide a unique glimpse into Minsky’s mind.

“Marvin left this city of ideas behind,” says Xiao Xiao ’09, SM ’11, PhD ’16, who co-edited the book with Cynthia Solomon and also illustrated it. “We’re just adding a society around it.” In his essays, Minsky “challenges a lot of norms,” she says, and addresses what she calls some “really misguided ideas” about learning and education in American society.

Xiao bonded with Minsky over a shared interest in music when she was a graduate student at the Media Lab. When she gave a demo of a prototype of her music-based project called MirrorFugue at a Media Lab event, he wanted to try it out himself. Minsky, she notes wryly, was what his wife called a “piano detective.” If there was a piano in a building, he would invariably find it.

His search to understand intelligence led him to think of people as machines—which Xiao says he viewed as a good thing. In one essay, by imagining human thought as “modules,” he envisions people becoming more in touch with their internal processes. Instead of thinking, “I want a piece of cake,” people could think, “One of my modules wants a piece of cake,” thus leaving room for other modules to disagree (perhaps because you already ate a piece of cake and don’t really need another).

Minsky believed that helping children (and adults) gain greater control over their mental processes gives them tools for “constructing better views of themselves,” as he put it, and improves their ability to learn. Reading his essays, Xiao says, she came across ideas she would “think about for days.”

Because of Minsky, Xiao thinks of learning as “building a structure in your mind,” noting that the more you do it, the easier it gets. Something you’ve learned in one place may form the foundation for understanding something else. “Learning how to learn is the most important skill,” she says, echoing one of Minsky’s lessons. “It’s impossible for somebody to learn one thing and only rely on that for the rest of their lives. We always need to be learning.”

Inventive Minds: Marvin Minsky on Education  By Marvin Minsky Edited by Cynthia Solomon and Xiao Xiao ’09, SM ’11, PhD ’16 MIT Press, 2018, $15.95

Recent books from the MIT community

Carbon Capture By Howard J. Herzog ’74, SM ’75, CHE ’80, senior research engineer in the MIT Energy Initiative MIT Press, 2018, $15.95

The Unsolid South: Mass Politics and National Representation in a One-Party Enclave By Devin Caughey, associate professor of political science Princeton University Press, 2018, $35

Resonant Games: Design Principles for Learning Games That Connect Hearts, Minds, and the Everyday By Eric Klopfer, Jason Haas, SM ’13, Scot Osterweil, and Louisa Rosenheck MIT Press, 2018, $40

Rethinking America’s Highways: A 21st-Century Vision for Better Infrastructure By Robert W. Poole Jr. ’66, SM ’67 University of Chicago Press, 2018, $30

Supernova Explosions By Craig Wheeler ’65 and David Branch Springer, 2017, $139

The Gift of Global Talent: How Migration Shapes Business, Economy & Society By William R. Kerr, PhD ’05 Stanford University Press, 2018, $27.95

Send book news to MIT News [email protected] or 1 Main Street, 13th Floor Cambridge, MA 02142

Keep Reading

Most popular, the biggest questions: what is death.

New neuroscience is challenging our understanding of the dying process—bringing opportunities for the living.

  • Rachel Nuwer archive page

Google DeepMind used a large language model to solve an unsolved math problem

They had to throw away most of what it produced but there was gold among the garbage.

  • Will Douglas Heaven archive page

Unpacking the hype around OpenAI’s rumored new Q* model

If OpenAI's new model can solve grade-school math, it could pave the way for more powerful systems.

  • Melissa Heikkilä archive page

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2024

Every year, we look for promising technologies poised to have a real impact on the world. Here are the advances that we think matter most right now.

  • The Editors archive page

Stay connected

Get the latest updates from mit technology review.

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at [email protected] with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.

MIT Press

On the site

Inventive minds.

Inventive Minds

Marvin Minsky on Education

by Marvin Minsky

Edited by Cynthia Solomon and Xiao Xiao

  • $30.00 Hardcover

232 pp. , 5 x 8 in , 110 b&w illus.

  • 9780262039093
  • Published: April 23, 2019
  • Publisher: The MIT Press
  • MIT Press Bookstore
  • Penguin Random House
  • Barnes and Noble
  • Bookshop.org
  • Books a Million

Other Retailers:

  • Amazon.co.uk
  • Waterstones
  • Request permissions
  • Description
  • Open Access

Six essays by artificial intelligence pioneer Marvin Minsky on how education can foster inventiveness, paired with commentary by Minsky's former colleagues and students.

Marvin Minsky was a pioneering researcher in artificial intelligence whose work led to both theoretical and practical advances. His work was motivated not only by technological advancement but also by the desire to understand the workings of our own minds. Minsky's insights about the mind provide fresh perspectives on education and how children learn. This book collects for the first time six essays by Minsky on children, learning, and the potential of computers in school to enrich children's development. In these essays Minsky discusses the shortcomings of conventional education (particularly in mathematics) and considers alternative approaches; reflects on the role of mentors; describes higher-level strategies for thinking across domains; and suggests projects for children to pursue. Each essay is paired with commentary by one of Minsky's former colleagues or students, which identifies Minsky's key ideas and connects his writings to current research. Minsky once observed that in traditional teaching, “instead of promoting inventiveness, we focus on preventing mistakes.” These essays offer Minsky's unique insights into how education can foster inventiveness.

Commentary by Hal Abelson, Walter Bender, Alan Kay, Margaret Minsky, Brian Silverman, Gary Stager, Mike Travers, Patrick Henry Winston

Marvin Minsky (1927–2016) was Toshiba Professor of Media Arts and Sciences and Donner Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT. He was a cofounder of the MIT Media Lab and a consultant for the One Laptop Per Child project.

Cynthia Solomon worked with Marvin Minsky at the MIT AI Lab and at the Atari Cambridge Research Lab. She is the author of Computer Environments for Children (MIT Press).

Xiao Xiao worked with Marvin Minsky at the MIT Media Lab. She is a computer scientist, artist, pianist, thereminist, and Research Affiliate with the Tangible Media Group at the MIT Media Lab.

“Marvin Minsky is best known as one of the founders of the field of artificial intelligence, but his true goal was understanding human intelligence. In these lovely essays, Marvin shares his distinctive, often contrarian ideas about children, learning, and education. As you read these essays, you'll find yourself thinking about your own thinking—and, more important, gain insights into why and how children should do the same.” Mitchel Resnick, LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research, MIT Media Lab; author of Lifelong Kindergarten
“Let's face it, writings on education tend to be plodding, stultifying affairs for the most part. What a joy then to have Marvin Minsky, who spent a lifetime thinking hard about thinking, weigh in on the subject. Put aside all your preconceptions about age-graded and clock-based classes, all your concerns about the current education industry, and get ready to think about a radically different education where children learn to become self-aware about their own thinking.” Hector J. Levesque, Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto
“In a time when education visionaries and magical solutions for our outdated schools are a dime a dozen, reading Marvin Minsky reminds us of what thinking outside of the box truly means. Even after 50 years, his ideas are still rebellious and radically innovative, and the revolution he started with Seymour Papert lives on. But these essays are also a reminder of how far we are from realizing Minsky's vision of education as the most fascinating, deep, and ambitious challenge humanity has created for itself. There is much work to be done, and this book might just be the first step.” Paulo Blikstein, Associate Professor, Columbia University

Music, Mind, and Mathematics by Xiao Xiao

Reflections on Marvin Minsky and His Music by Xiao Xiao

Expanded Introduction by Alan Kay

General info

The open access edition of this book was made possible by generous funding and support from MIT Libraries

Donate to support open access publishing at the MIT Press

License Info

Oa links and downloads.

MIT Press Direct open access edition

Related Books

Schools and Screens

Inventive Minds: Marvin Minsky on Education

Inventive Minds : Marvin Minsky on Education

Marvin Minsky (1927–2016) was Toshiba Professor of Media Arts and Sciences and Donner Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT. He was a cofounder of the MIT Media Lab and a consultant for the One Laptop Per Child project.

Xiao Xiao worked with Marvin Minsky at the MIT Media Lab. She is a computer scientist, artist, pianist, thereminist, and Research Affiliate with the Tangible Media Group at the MIT Media Lab.

Cynthia Solomon worked with Marvin Minsky at the MIT AI Lab and at the Atari Cambridge Research Lab. She is the author of Computer Environments for Children (MIT Press).

Six essays by artificial intelligence pioneer Marvin Minsky on how education can foster inventiveness, paired with commentary by Minsky's former colleagues and students.

Marvin Minsky was a pioneering researcher in artificial intelligence whose work led to both theoretical and practical advances. His work was motivated not only by technological advancement but also by the desire to understand the workings of our own minds. Minsky's insights about the mind provide fresh perspectives on education and how children learn. This book collects for the first time six essays by Minsky on children, learning, and the potential of computers in school to enrich children's development. In these essays Minsky discusses the shortcomings of conventional education (particularly in mathematics) and considers alternative approaches; reflects on the role of mentors; describes higher-level strategies for thinking across domains; and suggests projects for children to pursue. Each essay is paired with commentary by one of Minsky's former colleagues or students, which identifies Minsky's key ideas and connects his writings to current research. Minsky once observed that in traditional teaching, “instead of promoting inventiveness, we focus on preventing mistakes.” These essays offer Minsky's unique insights into how education can foster inventiveness.

Commentary by Hal Abelson, Walter Bender, Alan Kay, Margaret Minsky, Brian Silverman, Gary Stager, Mike Travers, Patrick Henry Winston

  • Open the Book PDF for in another window
  • Permissions
  • Cite Icon Cite

Inventive Minds : Marvin Minsky on Education By: Marvin Minsky, Xiao Xiao Edited by: Cynthia Solomon, Xiao Xiao https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/11558.001.0001 ISBN (electronic): 9780262350273 Publisher: The MIT Press Published: 2019

Download citation file:

  • Ris (Zotero)
  • Reference Manager

Table of Contents

  • [ Front Matter ] Doi: https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/11558.003.0023 Open the PDF Link PDF for [ Front Matter ] in another window
  • Acknowledgments Doi: https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/11558.003.0001 Open the PDF Link PDF for Acknowledgments in another window
  • A Short Biography of Marvin Minsky Doi: https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/11558.003.0002 Open the PDF Link PDF for A Short Biography of Marvin Minsky in another window
  • Preface By Cynthia Solomon Cynthia Solomon Search for other works by this author on: This Site Google Scholar Doi: https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/11558.003.0003 Open the PDF Link PDF for Preface in another window
  • Introduction By Mike Travers Mike Travers Search for other works by this author on: This Site Google Scholar Doi: https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/11558.003.0004 Open the PDF Link PDF for Introduction in another window
  • 1: The Infinite Construction Kit Doi: https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/11558.003.0006 Open the PDF Link PDF for 1: The Infinite Construction Kit in another window
  • Afterword to Essay 1 By Alan Kay Alan Kay Search for other works by this author on: This Site Google Scholar Doi: https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/11558.003.0007 Open the PDF Link PDF for Afterword to Essay 1 in another window
  • Introductory Remarks to Essay 2 By Hal Abelson Hal Abelson Search for other works by this author on: This Site Google Scholar Doi: https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/11558.003.0008 Open the PDF Link PDF for Introductory Remarks to Essay 2 in another window
  • 2: What Makes Mathematics Hard to Learn? Doi: https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/11558.003.0009 Open the PDF Link PDF for 2: What Makes Mathematics Hard to Learn? in another window
  • Introductory Remarks to Essay 3 By Gary Stager Gary Stager Search for other works by this author on: This Site Google Scholar Doi: https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/11558.003.0010 Open the PDF Link PDF for Introductory Remarks to Essay 3 in another window
  • 3: Effects of Grade-Based Segregation Doi: https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/11558.003.0011 Open the PDF Link PDF for 3: Effects of Grade-Based Segregation in another window
  • Introductory Remarks to Essay 4 By Brian Silverman Brian Silverman Search for other works by this author on: This Site Google Scholar Doi: https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/11558.003.0012 Open the PDF Link PDF for Introductory Remarks to Essay 4 in another window
  • 4: Learning from Role Models, Mentors,and Imprimers Doi: https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/11558.003.0013 Open the PDF Link PDF for 4: Learning from Role Models, Mentors,and Imprimers in another window
  • Introductory Remarks to Essay 5 By Walter Bender Walter Bender Search for other works by this author on: This Site Google Scholar Doi: https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/11558.003.0014 Open the PDF Link PDF for Introductory Remarks to Essay 5 in another window
  • 5: Questioning General Education Doi: https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/11558.003.0015 Open the PDF Link PDF for 5: Questioning General Education in another window
  • Introductory Remarks to Essay 6 By Patrick Henry Winston Patrick Henry Winston Search for other works by this author on: This Site Google Scholar Doi: https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/11558.003.0016 Open the PDF Link PDF for Introductory Remarks to Essay 6 in another window
  • 6: Education and Psychology Doi: https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/11558.003.0017 Open the PDF Link PDF for 6: Education and Psychology in another window
  • Afterword By Margaret Minsky Margaret Minsky Search for other works by this author on: This Site Google Scholar Doi: https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/11558.003.0018 Open the PDF Link PDF for Afterword in another window
  • Contributors Doi: https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/11558.003.0019 Open the PDF Link PDF for Contributors in another window
  • Notes Doi: https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/11558.003.0020 Open the PDF Link PDF for Notes in another window
  • Further Reading Doi: https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/11558.003.0021 Open the PDF Link PDF for Further Reading in another window
  • Index Doi: https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/11558.003.0022 Open the PDF Link PDF for Index in another window
  • Open Access

Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives

A product of The MIT Press

Mit press direct.

  • About MIT Press Direct

Information

  • Accessibility
  • For Authors
  • For Customers
  • For Librarians
  • Direct to Open
  • Media Inquiries
  • Rights and Permissions
  • For Advertisers
  • About the MIT Press
  • The MIT Press Reader
  • MIT Press Blog
  • Seasonal Catalogs
  • MIT Press Home
  • Give to the MIT Press
  • Direct Service Desk
  • Terms of Use
  • Privacy Statement
  • Crossref Member
  • COUNTER Member  
  • The MIT Press colophon is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

This Feature Is Available To Subscribers Only

Sign In or Create an Account

Inventive Minds: Marvin Minsky on Education

April 23, 2019

  • Marvin L. Minsky Former Professor Emeritus
  • Margaret Minsky
  • Hal Abelson Former Professor
  • Walter Bender Former Senior Research Scientist
  • Xiao Xiao Research Affiliate

Share this publication

Minsky, Marvin, Mike Travers, Alan Kay, Harold Abelson, Gary Stager, Brian Silverman, Walter Bender, Patrick Henry Winston, and Margaret Minsky. Inventive Minds: Marvin Minsky on Education. Edited by Cynthia Solomon and Xiao Xiao. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2019.

Six essays by artificial intelligence pioneer Marvin Minsky on how education can foster inventiveness, paired with commentary by Minsky's former colleagues and students.

Marvin Minsky was a pioneering researcher in artificial intelligence whose work led to both theoretical and practical advances. His work was motivated not only by technological advancement but also by the desire to understand the workings of our own minds. Minsky's insights about the mind provide fresh perspectives on education and how children learn. This book collects for the first time six essays by Minsky on children, learning, and the potential of computers in school to enrich children's development. In these essays Minsky discusses the shortcomings of conventional education (particularly in mathematics) and considers alternative approaches; reflects on the role of mentors; describes higher-level strategies for thinking across domains; and suggests projects for children to pursue. Each essay is paired with commentary by one of Minsky's former colleagues or students, which identifies Minsky's key ideas and connects his writings to current research. Minsky once observed that in traditional teaching, “instead of promoting inventiveness, we focus on preventing mistakes.” These essays offer Minsky's unique insights into how education can foster inventiveness.

Commentary by Hal Abelson, Walter Bender, Alan Kay, Margaret Minsky, Brian Silverman, Gary Stager, Mike Travers, and Patrick Henry Winston.

MLTalks—Inventive Minds: Marvin Minsky on Education

Inventive Minds: Marvin Minsky on Education is a collection of six essays by artificial intelligence pioneer Marvin Minsky.

Xiao Xiao and Cynthia Solomon in conversation with Hal Abelson

“Kids are people too!”

Throughout his career, Professor Hal Abelson has worked to make information technology more accessible to people of all ages.

Celebrating Marvin Minsky

Philosopher and scientist Marvin Minsky was universally regarded as one of the world's leading authorities in the field of AI.

creative inventive minds essay

  • SUGGESTED TOPICS
  • The Magazine
  • Newsletters
  • Managing Yourself
  • Managing Teams
  • Work-life Balance
  • The Big Idea
  • Data & Visuals
  • Reading Lists
  • Case Selections
  • HBR Learning
  • Topic Feeds
  • Account Settings
  • Email Preferences

Train Your Brain to Be More Creative

  • Bas Korsten

creative inventive minds essay

How to get those ideas flowing.

Creativity isn’t inherent. You have to hone it. Here are a few ways to do that, based on neuroscience.

  • Engage with nature: Looking at trees and leaves, instead of our electronic devices, reduces our anxiety, lowers our heart rates, soothes us, and allows our brains to make connections more easily.
  • Meditate: Meditation clears our minds of jumbled thoughts, and gives our brains the space to observe and reflect, improving task concentration and enhancing our ability to make smart decisions.
  • Get moving: Exercising releases endorphins – chemicals our body produces to relieve stress and pain. And when we are less stressed, our brains venture into more fruitful territory.
  • Connect with different kinds of people: Diversity makes the brain work harder, by challenging stereotypes.

Ascend logo

Where your work meets your life. See more from Ascend here .

I don’t do ruts.

  • Bas Korsten is the Global Chief Creative Officer at Wunderman Thompson.

Partner Center

Authors & Events

Recommendations

New Stories to Listen to

  • New & Noteworthy
  • Bestsellers
  • Popular Series
  • The Must-Read Books of 2023
  • Popular Books in Spanish
  • Coming Soon
  • Literary Fiction
  • Mystery & Thriller
  • Science Fiction
  • Spanish Language Fiction
  • Biographies & Memoirs
  • Spanish Language Nonfiction
  • Dark Star Trilogy
  • Ramses the Damned
  • Penguin Classics
  • Award Winners
  • The Parenting Book Guide
  • Books to Read Before Bed
  • Books for Middle Graders
  • Trending Series
  • Magic Tree House
  • The Last Kids on Earth
  • Planet Omar
  • Beloved Characters
  • The World of Eric Carle
  • Llama Llama
  • Junie B. Jones
  • Peter Rabbit
  • Board Books
  • Picture Books
  • Guided Reading Levels
  • Middle Grade
  • Activity Books
  • Trending This Week
  • Top Must-Read Romances
  • Page-Turning Series To Start Now
  • Books to Cope With Anxiety
  • Short Reads
  • Anti-Racist Resources
  • Staff Picks
  • Memoir & Fiction
  • Features & Interviews
  • Emma Brodie Interview
  • James Ellroy Interview
  • Nicola Yoon Interview
  • Qian Julie Wang Interview
  • Deepak Chopra Essay
  • How Can I Get Published?
  • For Book Clubs
  • Reese's Book Club
  • Oprah’s Book Club
  • happy place " data-category="popular" data-location="header">Guide: Happy Place
  • the last white man " data-category="popular" data-location="header">Guide: The Last White Man
  • Authors & Events >
  • Our Authors
  • Michelle Obama
  • Zadie Smith
  • Emily Henry
  • Cormac McCarthy
  • Colson Whitehead
  • In Their Own Words
  • Qian Julie Wang
  • Patrick Radden Keefe
  • Phoebe Robinson
  • Emma Brodie
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Laura Hankin
  • Recommendations >
  • 21 Books To Help You Learn Something New
  • Books With New TV and Movie Adaptations
  • Insightful Therapy Books To Read This Year
  • Historical Fiction With Female Protagonists
  • Best Thrillers of All Time
  • Manga and Graphic Novels
  • happy place " data-category="recommendations" data-location="header">Start Reading Happy Place
  • How to Make Reading a Habit with James Clear
  • Why Reading Is Good for Your Health
  • Vallery Lomas’ Blueberry Buckle Recipe
  • New Releases
  • Memoirs Read by the Author
  • Our Most Soothing Narrators
  • Press Play for Inspiration
  • Audiobooks You Just Can't Pause
  • Listen With the Whole Family

Penguin Random House

Look Inside

Inventive Minds

Marvin Minsky on Education

By Marvin Minsky Edited by Cynthia Solomon and Xiao Xiao

Category: nonfiction.

Apr 23, 2019 | ISBN 9780262039093 | 5-3/8 x 8 --> | ISBN 9780262039093 --> Buy

Buy from Other Retailers:

Apr 23, 2019 | ISBN 9780262039093

Buy the Hardcover:

  • Barnes & Noble
  • Books A Million
  • Powell’s

About Inventive Minds

Marvin Minsky was a pioneering researcher in artificial intelligence whose work led to both theoretical and practical advances. His work was motivated not only by technological advancement but also by the desire to understand the workings of our own minds. Minsky’s insights about the mind provide fresh perspectives on education and how children learn. This book collects for the first time six essays by Minsky on children, learning, and the potential of computers in school to enrich children’s development. In these essays Minsky discusses the shortcomings of conventional education (particularly in mathematics) and considers alternative approaches; reflects on the role of mentors; describes higher-level strategies for thinking across domains; and suggests projects for children to pursue. Each essay is paired with commentary by one of Minsky’s former colleagues or students, which identifies Minsky’s key ideas and connects his writings to current research. Minsky once observed that in traditional teaching, “instead of promoting inventiveness, we focus on preventing mistakes.” These essays offer Minsky’s unique insights into how education can foster inventiveness.

Commentary by Hal Abelson, Walter Bender, Alan Kay, Margaret Minsky, Brian Silverman, Gary Stager, Mike Travers, Patrick Henry Winston

Also by Marvin Minsky

Perceptrons, Reissue of the 1988 Expanded Edition with a new foreword by Léon Bottou

Product Details

You may also like.

Book cover

Visual Thinking

Book cover

Stalking the Riemann Hypothesis

Book cover

Why You Shouldn’t Eat Your Boogers and Other Useless or Gross Information About

Book cover

The Joy of Pi

Visit other sites in the Penguin Random House Network

Raise kids who love to read

Today's Top Books

Want to know what people are actually reading right now?

An online magazine for today’s home cook

Stay in Touch

By clicking "Sign Up", I acknowledge that I have read and agree to Penguin Random House's Privacy Policy and Terms of Use and understand that Penguin Random House collects certain categories of personal information for the purposes listed in that policy, discloses, sells, or shares certain personal information and retains personal information in accordance with the policy . You can opt-out of the sale or sharing of personal information anytime.

Just for joining you’ll get personalized recommendations on your dashboard daily and features only for members.

Point Status This is where you’ll see your current point status and your earned rewards. To redeem, copy and paste the code during the checkout process. See Account Overview

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • View all journals
  • My Account Login
  • Explore content
  • About the journal
  • Publish with us
  • Sign up for alerts
  • Open access
  • Published: 31 October 2017

The creative mind: cognition, society and culture

  • Ib Bondebjerg 1  

Palgrave Communications volume  3 , Article number:  19 ( 2017 ) Cite this article

19k Accesses

5 Citations

4 Altmetric

Metrics details

  • Cultural and media studies

This article provides an overview of the main tendencies and ideas in the embodied mind paradigm in the expanding field of modern cognitive science. The focus is not on the biological and neurological aspects of cognitive science, rather the article demonstrates how basic concepts and theories from cognitive science have influenced linguistics, sociology, the understanding of art and creativity, film and film perception, as well as our understanding of historical film narratives and mediated memories. Although these areas of humanities and social science may seem unrelated, this article demonstrates how the embodied mind paradigm has actually forged links between separate scientific disciplines. Cognitive science and the embodied mind theory have created a stronger interdisciplinary connection between cognitive understanding in social science and humanities. Metaphors and image schema, the way our brain relies on narrative structures, the dynamic ability of the brain to blend old and new schemas, and the unparalleled creativity of the brain are all part of the approaches of the cognitive social science and humanities to social interaction, communication and creativity described here. The article also discusses the relationship between the more universal dimensions of the human mind and the question of cultural and social variations. The argument here is that a cognitive and more universal theory of human beings is not the same as determinism. On the contrary, when we understand our universal commonalities and the basic functions of our embodied mind we will also be better placed to understand cultural and social differences and variations.

Introduction

It ought to be an established fact in all sciences that human beings are the result of a long evolutionary development with interaction between our biology and the social and cultural conditions under which this evolution has taken place. Yet, in some sciences to point to biology, genes and the way our brain is basically constructed as part of an argument of social interaction or culture and creativity can still raise anger and controversy. The fact that our mind is embodied, that our language, way of thinking, our way of interacting with each other, our gender is firmly based in our bodies and our brain can still lead to heated discussions in some branches of academia. Yet, all important forms of cognitive science have clearly pointed out that it is not a question of biology and human nature against culture and society. It is in fact a question of understanding the very complex interaction between nature, society and culture—in line with a pretty long tradition from Darwin onward (see Bondebjerg, 2015 ).

Mapping the field of cognitive science

In one of the early, seminal books on cognitive science, Francisco J. Varela, Evan Thompson and Eleanor Rosch’s The Embodied Mind. Cognitive Science and Human Experience ( 1991 ) even the title indicates this. From the first sentences of the introduction they state that their aim is to define cognitive science as something that combines an understanding of the lived human experience—following the philosophy of Merleau-Ponty—with a biological understanding of the brain. The main point is that we need to:

(..) see our bodies both as physical structures and as lived experiential structures—in short, as both ‘outer’ and ‘inner’, biological and phenomenological. The two sides of embodiment are obviously not opposed. Instead, we continuously circulate back and forth between them” (Varela et al., 1991 , p 15).

When writing this, the three authors make a statement, which they at the same time see as criticism of a dominant tendency in early forms of cognitive science to largely ignore this interaction between cognition, society and culture. This fundamental interaction is however also absent from most forms of human and social sciences, where a strong tendency towards social constructivism has dominated for decades. Taken to a just as fundamentalist level as early cognitive science, social constructivism tend the claim that all social and cultural phenomenon are constructions, that in other words cognition and the embodied mind means very little. What Varela, Thompson and Rosch intend to do with their book is in their own words not to

(…) build some grand unified theory (…) our concern is to open a space of possibilities, in which the circulation between cognitive science and human experience can be fully appreciated” (Varela et al., 1991 , p 18).

Varela, Thompson and Rosch map the field of cognitive science by pointing to five main areas (Varela et al., 1991 , 7): Neuroscience, the central medical science area, Cognitive psychology, Philosophy and Artificial intelligence linguistics, and philosophy. So even at this early stage of mapping a relatively new field, we see the merging of disciplines across natural and medical sciences and social sciences and humanities. It takes at its starting point the fundamental structures of our brain and how it works and combines it with the interaction between brain and body in the world of human experience, interaction, and communication. So even though basic neuroscience and artificial intelligence could seem to generate the image of cognitive theory and the human mind as a computer this is quite wrong. As both neuroscientist themselves and the uses of basic cognitive theory in social sciences and the humanities demonstrate, our brain and the way it interacts with culture and society is amazingly creative and flexible.

Metaphors we think with and live by

Today the fields of cognitive studies described by Varela et al. would have to be expanded because communication sciences in a broad sense, film and media studies and studies of art and literature has now been directly inspired by cognitive psychology and science. This can partly be explained by the influence of Gerorge Lakoff and Mark Johnson beyond linqustics, but also by cognitive studies of creativity, aesthetic and the arts. Varela et al.’s book is already quite unusual as a basic introduction to cognitive science by including phenomenology and aspects of non-western philosophy, especially the Buddhist notion of mindfulness (Varela et al., 1991 , 23f). Very neurological representations of the brain and how it works is combined with more experiental dimension of our mind. But such dimensions also link to Lakoff and Johnson’s seminal founding of a cognitive linguistics in which traditional understandings of language are replaced by an embodied theory where language is seen as part of an embodied mind.

George Lakoff and Mark Johnsons book Metaphors we live by ( 1980 ) is a very early and extremely important book, because it turned linguistics and thus central parts of the humanities completely upside down. There is a direct link to Varela, Thompson and Rosch’s basic attempt to move cognitive science towards the study of the interaction between basic cognitive and embodied structure and our lived experience. Taking metaphor away from just poetic language and into the centre of everyday language and ways of thinking, Lakoff and Johnson not just went against traditional linguistics but also against the sharp line between rationality and emotion in Western thought and philosophy. What the book suggested was that our language and our way of thinking was embodied, and in some of their later writings this notion was further expanded through the discovery of the role of mirror neurons, and the role they play in explaining how language and metaphors were indeed embodied, changed and developed into networks of meaning structures (Lakoff, 2008 ).

Just as Varela et al. start from a computational understanding of the brain, Lakoff and Johnson use this, not just to anchor the understanding of language in our brain but to demonstrate how very basic neural mechanisms serve pretty complicated mental and linguistic processes that dominate in both everyday language, poetic language and more abstract thinking and reasoning. “We think with our brains. There is no other choice. Thought is physical. Ideas and the concept s that make them up are physically ‘computed by brain structures. Reasoning is the activation of certain neuronal groups in the brain given prior activation of other neuronal groups (Lakoff, 2008 , p 17) The neurological starting point allows Lakoff to describe more precisely how connectivity via the brain works in our language and way of thinking. The brain is a complex of regions and neurons that structure input and output, and as Lakoff points out “neurons that fire together, wire together (Lakoff, 2008 , p 19). This basically means that metaphors and metaphorical networks are built in our mind in such a way that certain metaphorical connections are stronger than others, although it also means that in our everyday interaction with the world, metaphors are constantly changed, developed or modified.

In 1980 when Metaphors we live by came out neuroscience and cognitive psychology was not as far advanced as today, where the mapping of the brain and how the embodied mind functions has taken giant leaps. The move towards a stronger embodied mind theory of linguistics was however taken quite a bit further in Mark Johnson’s The Body in the Mind. The Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination and Reason ( 1987 ). Here the criticism of traditional objectivist linguistic theories of meaning went even deeper and they formulated a broader, embodied theory of imagination, metaphor and meaning. The theory of imagination, metaphors and image schema in linguistics point to communication and film studies and there are clearly many interdisciplinary dimensions in Lakoff and Johnson’s writings. We find the same kind of theoretical main focus in for instance David Bordwell’s seminal book Narration in the Fiction film ( 1985 ) in which cognitive schema theory is used to explain different narrative structures in film and how viewers actively perceive a film. Also here the embodied mind theory is crucial. In Philosophy in the Flesh. The Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought (1999) they argue for an embodied philosophy, and in George Lakoff’s Moral Politics. How Liberals and Conservatives Think ( 2016 ) he moves into media and political communication.

Lakoff and Johnson’s intervention into linguistics, communication and philosophy illustrate the potential strength of cognitive science to form a basis for ways of articulating, analysing and understanding central areas of society and culture in different disciplines. Their study of metaphor and the whole embodied dimension of language and thought again underlines the interaction between our bodily capacities and the sensori-motoric aspects of our embodied mind and the context we act in. There is therefore a clear link between cognitive linguistics and the basic dimensions in cognitive science as such. In their description of cognition as embodied action Varela et al. call such cognitive theories another way of avoiding the chicken-egg paradox of cognition: the world does neither exist out there with pre-given properties, nor is the world just a projection of our internal system. The interaction between world (chicken) and embodied mind (egg) is such that the interactions forms a new whole:

Cognition depends upon the kinds of experience that come from having a body with sensorimotor capacities, and second that these sensorimotor capacities are themselves embedded in a more encompassing biological, psychological and cultural context (…) sensory and motor processes, perception and action, are fundamentally inseparable in lived cognition (1991, 172f).

Cognitive sociology: the perception of self and others

In cognitive science the relation between the brain, the body and the social and cultural context is crucial, it is the interaction between the embodied human mind and our everyday experience, which is in focus. This means that our interaction with other humans is crucial, and the way we understand and experience our own self and that of others of equally strong importance. Such questions are classical questions in philosophy, which have taken new forms in both philosophy and in psychology and sociology under the influence of cognitive science.

Psychology and psychoanalysis have, since the days of Freud and Jung, been a varied, scientific field of their own, but have also inspired other areas—especially in the social sciences and humanities. With the vastly increased empirical and clinical data on how the brain and the embodied mind work, the field that used to be social psychology has moved in the direction of a broader field of cognitive sociology—and so has psychology in general. In one of the first major books aiming at changing the focus of traditional psychology, Marvin Minsky’s The Society of Mind ( 1985 ), even the title indicate that the study of the mind is seen metaphorically as a both physical and social construction. In his postscript Minsky defines the central concept of the book as being “that the mind is a society of many smaller mechanisms’ (Minsky, 1985 , p 323), mechanisms that work together to create for instance memory, learning sensory experiences or our understanding of ourselves as a self and our understanding of others.

Minsky’s background is artificial intelligence at MIT, and the way he writes about the mind is clearly influenced by thinking in practical terms about models that could be implemented in computers to simulate the human mind. The two authors of one of the most used textbooks in cognitive sociology Social Cognition (1984, 5th edn, many revised new editions), Susan T. Fiske and Shelley E. Taylor, came out of mainstream American psychology, and the book was written explicitly to counteract the dominance of behaviourism. In the introduction the two authors define the field of social cognition as “the study of how people make sense of other people and themselves. It focuses on how ordinary people think about people and how they think they think about people” (Fiske and Taylor ( 1991 , p 1). The book goes through attribution theory, that is how we ascribe value, meaning and causality to social events, through the important social categories and schemas we use in a top down way to understand both others, ourselves and social actions. There is a focus on how we perceive our selves and the role of memory and emotions and the forming of attitudes. Compared to traditional psychology cognitive processes play a fundamental role, although the book was written at a time where modern neuroscience and cognitive studies was not as advanced as today.

Fiske and Taylor’s book on social cognition is part of a wider move towards what you might call a more universal cognitive sociology. At least that is what Eviatar Zerubavel ( 1997 ) argues for in his short but interesting book, Social Mindscapes. An Invitation to Cognitive Sociology . He argues that in light of the new developments in neuroscience and cognitive psychology, we need to stress “the cognitive commonality” between all human beings. The cognitive trend, as Zerubavel points out, moves away from the almost romantic notions of the specificity of the individual towards an endeavour to “discover universal patterns in the way we form concepts, process information, activate mental ‘schemas’, make decisions, solve problems, generate meaningful sentences from ‘deep’ syntactic structures, access our memory, and move through the various stages of our cognitive development” (Zerubavel, 1997 , p 3).

However, Zerubavel also warns against a too strong and rigid cognitive universalism, and argues for the interaction between what he calls the collective subcultures linked to social and cultural structures, which influence the way we think. In the same way he argues for a stronger focus on also cognitive individualism. His aim is clearly to link the understanding of the individual cognitive mind and the social cognitive mind with the more universal mind that are common to the whole of mankind. In this sense he continues the trend in cognitive studies to undermine any simple determinism in the understanding of the relation between our universal mind and the social and cultural context this mind of ours is living. Zerubavel wants us to pay more attention to “cognitive diversity” and “cognitive subcultures”.

We must be aware of universal commonalities based on how our mind and body function, no matter who we are and where we are. At the same time we must not ignore that the process of “cognitive socialisation that allows us to enter the social, intersubjective world” (Zerubavel, 1997 , p 15).

Such studies have in fact already appeared, for instance Nicholas Christakis and James Fowlers fascinating study of social networks, Connected. The Amazing Power of Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives ( 2009 ). Based on rich data on how people on social networks connect, they clearly show how technologies in general are built on the same principles as those we know real life and traditional theories and studies of cognitive sociology. Connections and networks are based on social and cultural proximity and similarities, and very often emotions pay a central role. Our contacts are based on mirror-acts, and the fundamental way we form networks, even in this hi-tech complex world of ours, are deeply structures by rules and mechanisms that have evolved over a long time of genetic evolution. In their book they exemplify this by studying political networks in several parts of the world. Looking at for instance the Iranian political blogosphere and the American we find exactly the same structure. The networks on the social media in both countries are similar to social and political networks in real life. We connect and talk to those we are alike and agree with already, so social networks only to a very small degree expand our network to people we do not know or already agree with (Christakis and Fowler, 2009 , 172ff)

Networks, according to Christakis and Fowler, may therefore seem very creative and different from the kinds of networks we have seen before, but in reality they are expansions and variations of rather fundamental, evolutionary mechanisms of social interaction:

We deliberately choose to form social connections with specific individuals, with whom we share greater or lesser intimacy and affection, for brief or lengthy periods of time. And unlike other social species, we have a special capacity to imagine what others are thinking and feeling, including what they are thinking of us. Our embeddedness in social networks means that we must cooperate with others, judge their intentions, and influence or be influenced by them (Christakis and Fowler, 2009 , p 214).

Blending theory and our creative mind

Cognitive science is perhaps often seen as a rather simplifying theory and way of understanding humans and the way humans interact with the world and each other. However, as we have seen with cognitive linguistics and sociology, the basic cognitive understanding of communication and social encounters is clearly used to develop quite complex and dynamic models of the human mind and human activities. The fundamental call for a combination of a neurological and biological understand of the embodied mind with the human experience in all its dynamic cultural and social experience and diversity we find in Varela et al. and in many other hard core books on cognitive science is developed fully in other areas where a cognitive approach is used. One of the most interesting developments in creative theory that builds of basic cognitive science is Mark Turner and Gilles Fauconnnier’s theory of conceptual blending in thinking in general and production of art specifically. There is a direct link between Varela et al.’s general cognitive theory and Lakoff and Johnson’s cognitive linguistics. The basic principle of blending is connected to the theory of neurological metaphorical networks and to schema theory in the sense that blending theory is trying to explain how basic schematic structures make very complex and dynamic variations possible.

As Turner and Fauconnier point out, humans have developed an exceptionally flexible and creative mind and many aspects of the working brain and the embodied mind cut across different activities in our everyday life and work. However, recently special attention has been paid to the creative brain, more specifically in art, film and media. If art and creativity is about creating something new, this must in some way activate many and also different part of our brain and the ways of thinking we have already embedded in our brain. We know that part of our mind works top down to activate established schemas, which can help us solve specific problems or interpret a concrete social event. We use what is already stored to navigate our reality. However, creativity is also about creating new schemas and combining schemas we already have in new ways. Fauconnier and Turners main point is in fact that all humans are constantly developing the conceptual neural networks we already have.

Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner have worked intensely with this and what they call “conceptual blending”, especially in their book The Way we Think. Conceptual Blending and the Mind’s Hidden Complexities ( 2002 ). Their claim is in fact that approximately 50,000 years ago, during the Upper Palaeolithic period, a spectacular change took place, during which human beings “developed an unprecedented ability to innovate. They acquired a modern human imagination, which gave them the ability to invent new concepts and to assemble new and dynamic mental patterns” (Fauconnier and Turner, 2002 , p 5). This ability, called conceptual blending, is thus a general feature of the modern human brain and mind, it is what makes it possible for humans to develop large and very complex conceptual networks, and also to develop, change and renew them. In their understanding, this is not just central to art, but something that underlies all our mental activities from language, art and science and down to basic everyday social skills.

In a later edited book by Mark Turner, The Artful Mind. Cognitive Science and the Riddle of Human Creativity ( 2006 ) focus is on how specifically to understand creativity in art forms, and how this is related to our general ability to deals with quite complex neural networks in our life in general. In all articles in the book we find a clear tendency to unite universal cognitive patterns with more group based, even individual forms of social and cultural cognition:

The individual human being, in form and movement, in thought and action, is a seamless intersection of powerful histories—phylogenetic history, individual development, and social and cultural history—all profoundly influential. A human being is a unified agency of biology, psychology, and social, environmental and cultural patterns (Turner ed. 2006 , p 16).

Therefore, even though all humans come with a body and a brain which has a lot of pre-installed ‘hardware’ based on a long evolutionary development, even though we are not in that sense socially and culturally constructed, the bottom line in the theory of the creative mind and blending theory is that we develop new networks all the time. The fundamental dimensions of language, of telling stories and making pictures, which is part of our evolutionary history, is all there in our embodied and creative mind from the day we are born. Yet, we do not all become great artists, authors or filmmakers. The mix of genes, biology, evolution and our social and cultural history as individuals and in families and cultural groups is what shapes and forms a creative mind in such a way that this individual changes history and our way of looking at ourselves, others and the world. This is the magic of the creative mind, the magic blending of the embodied mind, society and culture.

Film, narrative and cognition

Fauconnier and Turners theory of blending and creative work is in many ways exemplified by the way in which cognitive film theory developed from the 1980s and on. Until then film theory was mostly influenced by structuralism or more classical aesthetic approaches to the historical and genre based study of film. However, almost at the same time as Lakoff and Johnson started changing our fundamental understanding of language by combining cognitive theory and more formal and structural forms of understanding, David Bordwell combined formal analysis and cognitive psychology in the study of film. In Narration in the Fiction film ( 1985 ) Bordwell discussed classical theories of film narration with a new focus on the psychology of film perception and cognition. The inclusion of the viewer perspective was important and novel for film theory because Bordwell clearly pointed out that a film is both made by the director and other creative people and the viewer, and that the system behind film narration and the viewers perception is based on perceptual and cognitive dimensions of a more general nature. Watching a film was in Bordwell’s theory of narration a cognitive and emotional process and experience, and using a just formal-aesthetic approach to film was not enough.

Bordwell’s way activating the process of viewing film was a direct critique of the dominant film theories which tended to talk about film that positioned the viewer in a specific ideological way. Instead Bordwell saw the film as a way of cueing the spectators, creating an active interaction between our already existing mental schemas and the specific film. Narration thus became an intense meeting point between a film and a viewer, based on a series of psychological and cognitive procedures:

The fabula is thus a pattern, which perceivers of narratives create through assumptions and inferences. It is the developing result of picking up narrative cues, applying schemata, framing and testing hypothesis (…) The viewer builds the fabula on the basis of prototype schemata (identifiable types of persons, actions, locales etc.), template schemata (principally “the canonic story”) and procedural schemata (a search for appropriate motivations and relations of causality, time and space) (Bordwell, 1985 , p 49).

Bordwell combined this more formal, structural, psychological and cognitive approach to film with a more concrete historical definition of basic forms of narration: Classical narration is basically the Hollywood mode of narration and at the same time a rather canonic form with a strong position as universally understandable; Art cinema narration on the other hand is a historical type of narration, which challenges the canonical form of narration. Bordwell also discussed other forms like Historical-Materialist narration in early Soviet cinema, and what he called parametric narration. Again we see a combination of more basic cognitive forms of psychology and concrete historical and aesthetic analysis situating the cognitive dimensions in a social and cultural context.

Bordwell is a founding father in cognitive film theory, building connections to also more aesthetic and historical forms of film theory and film history. Today cognitive film theory has developed into the most comprehensive theory of film. Another important figure is Torben Grodal whose work is based on an evolutionary understanding of how film genres interact with our emotional and cognitive structures. His two books Moving Pictures. A New Theory of Film Genres, Feelings and Cognition ( 1996 ) and Embodied Visions. Evolution, Emotion, Culture and Film ( 2009 ) are both key texts in modern, cognitive film theory. Grodal’s first book was in many ways similar in general approach to Joseph Anderson’s The reality of Illusion: An Ecological Approach to Cognitive Film Theory (1996) in the sense that they draw on the large scale evolutionary perspective. Here the premise is that the narrative and other schemata we use in film viewing have an effect on our general real life experience:

(..) the schemata we bring to films are those we bring to other experiences in the world and when the viewing experience modifies those schemata (as all perceptual and cognitive cycles do) it has in some ways change the way we interact with the world (Anderson 1996, p 155).

The cognitive theory of film and film narratives see the filmic form and filmic genres as specific domains of art and communication. Genres are—as Grodal point out in his works—ways of integrating human characters, actions and emotions, which can be seen as film forms and filmic representations of real life. Genres are however also modalities of narration and emotions that build on and interact with real life experience and draw on our embodied mind structures. Melodrama is quite distinct from romantic comedy or from action-adventure movies for instance, however the narrative and emotional structures point us back to networks of meaning and experiences in our embodied mind. Just as Bordwell stressed the relation between film form and genre and the cognitive aspects of the spectator, Grodal already in his first book pointed to

(..) a systematic relation between the embodied mental processes and configurations activated in a given type of visual fiction and the emotional ‘tone’ and ‘modal qualities of the experienced affects, emotions and feelings in the viewer. Prototypical genres of visual fiction will evoke typical tones and modalities (..) (Grodal, 1996 , p 3)

Putting the embodied mind in the context of film viewing therefore also leads to an alignment between cognitive structures and emotions in reality and in film. As Lakoff has pointed out (Lakoff, 2008 , pp 27–28, see also Bondebjerg, 2014 ) narratives, even complex narratives, are not just something we find in language, film and literature, they are in fact central cognitive structures of the world of fiction and non-fiction and our way of experiencing our everyday reality. Frames and scripts are cognitive schemata, and they are used all the time to structure mediated experiences and real life events. Narrative then, is in fact also a result of evolution, it is a cognitive schema we all possess and which is part of the way we understand reality and create meaning based on characters, space, events, time and causality. Life around us, the people we meet and the actions and events we are involved in are constantly interpreted by our narrative ‘gene’ to make stories of others, just as our own life and self is reflected in a constantly updated self-narrative (Bruner, 1996 and 2002 , Gottschall, 2012 ).

History, memory and film

Memory is one of the most debated issues in cognitive theory, and in memory studies more broadly. The cognitive procedures and functions of memory are crucial to our way of experiencing a coherent self over time and for our ability to navigate in the present. In a paradoxical way then, the past is in many ways a very important part of the present. Memory researchers like José van Dijck ( 2007 ) and Astrid Erll ( 2011 ) point out that our brain stores data on the past from both fiction and non fiction sources, from real life experience and mediated experience in such a way that they are mixed or interact in various ways. Stories affect our minds and memories, fiction teaches us facts about the world, and as Gottschall states: ‘fiction has probably told us as much about the world as anything else’ (Gottschall, 2012 , p 149).

Fiction needs to be taken seriously as a factor influencing the human mind and our individual and collective memory. But looking at the concept of memory, we can even take this much further. First of all, memory is extremely important both on and individual level and a collective social level. Without memory we loose feeling of who we are and our social ability to navigate in society disappears. In José van Dijck’s Mediated Memoirs in the Digital Age ( 2007 ) he simply states that:

Remembering is vital to our well-being, because without our autobiographical memories we would have no sense of past or future, and we would lack any sense of continuity. Our image of who we are (…) is never stable but it is subject to constant remodelling because our perceptions of who we are change along with our projections and desires of who we want to be (Dijck, 2007 , p 3).

He combines this observation with a reference to Susan Bluck’s ( 2003 ) definition of the three main functions of autobiographical memory: preserving the sense of being a coherent person over time; strengthening social bonds by sharing personal memories; and using past experiences to construct models to understand inner worlds of self and others.

As we all know from experience, memory is imperfect, seen from an objective point of view. We constantly forget things and happenings in the past, or we interpret the same things differently. As Gottschall formulates it: when we try to recall something in the past we are not just simply “queuing up a videotape; we recall bits of data from all around the brain. These data are then sent forward to the storytelling mind (…) who stiches and pasts the scraps and fragments into a coherent and plausible re-creation of what might have occurred’ (Gottschall, 2012 , p 169). In other words the past as it is represented in our mind is a ‘mental simulation’—not mere fiction, not without a firm base in actual past experiences, but a narrative, a ‘fictionalisation.’ The neurological, biological background for this can be found in the fact that memory is not located in one specific part of the brain, as Dijck points out:

The establishment of memory depends on the working of the entire brain network, consisting in turn of several memory systems, including semantic and episodic memory, declarative or procedural memory (…) the brain is thus the generator of reflexes, responses, drives, emotions and ultimately, feelings; memory involves both the perception of a certain body state and a certain mind state’ (Dijck, 2007 , p 31).

Memory is not just individual, it has a clear collective dimension and social function. This collective and social form of memory has always been around, but since this form of memory to a large degree includes mediated forms, the rise of audio-visual and digital media with vast archive functions have changed our access to collective memory. In an article with the title ‘ A Cognitive Taxonomy of Collective Memory’ the two cognitive psychologists David Manier and William Hirst ( 2008 ) divided the forms of collective memory into three: collective-episodic memory , the form of collective memory shared by a specific social group (including families); collective-semantic memory , the form of collective memory persons or groups can have about past and historic events and times they do not have personal experience of themselves, but where the memory is based on narratives from others and mediated narratives; Collective-procedural memory , the form of collective memory which is situated around collective and institutional rituals and thus connected with traditions of remembrance. This distinction between individual and collective memory and the different forms of memory is of course not a sharp division. The different domains and forms of memory interact in any individual’s memory. As individuals we are part of a broader social and cultural context, and collective memories—for instance in the form of mediated collective narratives—mingle with personal memories.

In modern times, after the rise of television, film and new digital media, one could argue that mediated forms of memory has become so important that it is necessary to define a new mode of public cultural memory. This is precisely what Alison Landsberg has argued—following the already mentioned work of José van Dijck—and she calls this “prosthetic memory” in her book Prosthetic Memory. The Transformation of American Remembrance in the Age of Mass Culture (2004). She defines this form of mediated memory as something emerging “at the interface between a person and a historical narrative about the past” (Landsberg, 2004 , p 2) and she elaborates further on the nature of this merging:

In the process I am describing, the person does not simply apprehend a historical narrative but takes on a more personal, deeply felt memory of a past event through which he or she did not live. The resulting prosthetic memory has the ability to shape that person’s subjectivity and politics (ibid.)

The understanding of the brain and the biology behind the concept of the embodied mind is no longer a case for the medical sciences, for neuroscience and medicine, nor for the high tech versions of artificial intelligence. If the understanding of a cultured person used to be one that knew history, literature and the arts, one might suggest that today more than ever, we also need to know the basics of how our mind and body work. From linguistics to the creative arts, from psychology to sociology, from history and memory studies to studies of mediated networks and communication, the insight of cognitive theory has made a deep impact on traditional areas of research.

The impact of cognitive theory on for instance the humanities and social science is still heavily debated, and many researchers tend to see cognitive theory as reductionist and deterministic in the understanding of culture and society. Although such positions can be found in cognitive theory, my presentation of main tendencies in the development of the theory of the embodied mind clearly shows a different picture. It seems that most of the prolific researchers in this tradition are very much aware of the dynamic relations between the brain, the mind, and the body as a biological phenomenon and the cultural and social context. There is in fact a very nuanced understanding of the way rather firmly, evolutionary elements in our body and brain has been influenced and is constantly influenced by evolution and by our individual and group oriented cultural and social actions and experiences. Needles to say, that such a fundamental understanding of the interaction between body, brain and our social and cultural environment is based on the understanding of evolution, Darwin started. It is probably the best supported scientific hypothesis in modern history.

To just ignore cognitive and evolutionary theory would be a major mistake, the embodied mind theory is in fact one of the most promising theories in a long time. It is a theory that has the potential to make researchers from very different disciplines speak on the basis of a common framework for the understanding of man in culture and society. It is not the grand theory to end all other theories, but it is theory that in many ways celebrates and explains why humans have what Fauconnnier and Turner has described as a fantastic creative mind, and what can make the neuroscientist Anton Damasio become quite poetic:

And what is the ultimate gift of consciousness to humanity? Perhaps the ability to navigate the future in the seas of our imagination, guiding the self craft into a safe and productive harbour. The greatest of all gifts depends once again, on the intersection of the self and memory. Memory, tempered by personal feeling, is what allows humans to imagine both individual well-being and the compounded well-being of a whole society, and to invent the ways and means of achieving and magnifying that well-being (Damasio, 2012 , pp 296–97).

Cognitive science has developed into one of the most important core sciences for the understanding of the embodied, human mind. Step by step neurology uncovers new aspects of how the brain works and how the different regions and part of the brain collaborate. We know by know that it is an extremely complex, dynamic and creative brain evolution has given us, and we also know that ancient ways of understand the relation between mind and body, and between rationality and emotion can no longer be sustained. This means that cognitive science has already had fundamental influence on how we look at humans and consequently also how humans, culture and society interact. Cognitive science and the embodied mind theory has been very influential in creating link across various academic disciplines—although it is also still controversial in some parts of humanities and social science.

In this article I have tried to give an overview of basic elements in cognitive science with a special focus on key concepts like schemata in social and communicative interaction, metaphors and neural networks, narrative, creativity and memory and historical narratives. Taken from basic cognitive science such concepts have played an important role in changing the way social sciences and humanities look at culture and society. A main point in this connection is that cognitive science does not rest on a deterministic notion of the human brain, on the contrary. Cognitive science and modern neurology consider the interaction between the embodied mind and the social and cultural context to be of extreme importance. It is a highly dynamic interaction in which pre-established structures of the brain ‘negotiate’ with and constantly change and develop in connection with the experiences we have as individual, human beings in a specific cultural and social context.

As the leading American neurologist, Antonio Damasio, has stated:

Naturalising the conscious mind and planting it firmly in the brain does not diminish the role of culture in the construction of human beings, does not reduce human dignity, and does not mark the end of mystery and puzzlement. Cultures arise and evolve from collective efforts of human brains, over many generations, and some cultures even die in the process. They require brains that have already been shaped by prior cultural effects. The significance of cultures to the making of the modern human mind is not in question (Damasio, 2012 , p 29).

Data availability

Data sharing is not applicable to this paper as no datasets were analysed or generated.

Anderson JD (1996) The Reality of Illusion: An ecological Approach to Cognitive Film Theory. Southerns Illinois University Press, Carbondale

Bluck S (2003) Autobiographical memory: exploring Its functions in everyday life. Memory 11(2):113–123

Bondebjerg Ib (2014) Documentary and cognitive theory: Narrative emotion and memory. In Media Commun 2(1):13–22

Article   Google Scholar  

Bondebjerg, Ib (2015) The embodied mind: when biology meets culture and society. In: Palgrave Communications , https://doi.org/10.1057/palcomms.2015.15

Bordwell d (1985) Narration in the fiction film. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, WI

Google Scholar  

Bruner J (1996) Actual minds, possible worlds. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA

Bruner J (2002) Making stories. Law, literature, life. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA

Christakis N, Fowler J (2009) Connected. The amazing power of social networks and how they shape our lives. Harper Press, Hammersmith, London

Damasio A (2012) Self comes to mind. Constructing the conscious brain. Vintage Books, New York

Dijck José van (2007) Mediated memories in the digital age. Stanford University Press, Stanford

Erll A (2011) Memory in culture. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke

Book   Google Scholar  

Fauconnier G, Turner M (2002) The way we think. Conceptual blending and the mind’s hidden complexities. Basic Books, New York

Fiske ST, Taylor SE (1991) Social Cognition, 2nd edn. McGraw-Hill, New York

Gottschall J (2012) The storytelling animal. How stories make us human. Mariner Books, Boston

Grodal T (1996) Moving pictures. A new theory of film genres, feelings and cognition. Oxford University Press, Oxford

Grodal T (2009) Embodied visions. Evolution, emotion, culture and film. Oxford University Press, Oxford

Johnson M (1987) The body in the mind. The bodily basis of meaning, imagination and reason. University of Chicago Press, Chicago

Lakoff G (1988) Cognitive semantics. In: Eco U, et al. (eds) Meaning and mental representation. Indiana University Press, Bloomington

Lakoff G (2008) The neural theory of metaphor. In: Gibbs R (ed) The Cambridge handbook of metaphor and thought. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 17–38

Chapter   Google Scholar  

Lakoff G (2016) Moral politics. How liberals and conservatives think. University of Chicago Press, Chicago

Lakoff G, Johnsons M (1980) Metaphors we live by. University of Chicago Press, Chicago

Lakoff G, Johnson M (1999) Philosophy in the flesh. The embodied mind and its challenge to western thought. Basic Books, New York

Landsberg A (2004) Prosthetic memory. the transformation of american remembrance in the age of mass culture. Columbia University Press, New York

Manier D, Hirst W (2008) A cognitive taxonomy of collective memory. In: Erll A, Nünning A, Young SB (eds) Cultural memory studies: an international and interdisciplinary handbook. de Gruyter, Berlin/New York, p 253–262

Minsky M (1985) The society of mind. Touchstone Books, New York

Turner M (2006) (ed) The artful mind. Cognitive science and the riddle of human creativity. Oxford University Press, Oxford

Varela FJ, Thompson E, Rosch E (1991) The embodied mind. Cognitive science and human experience. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA

Zerubavel E (1997) Social mindscapes. An invitation to cognitive sociology. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA

Download references

Author information

Authors and affiliations.

Department of Media, Cognition and Communication, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark

Ib Bondebjerg

You can also search for this author in PubMed   Google Scholar

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ib Bondebjerg .

Ethics declarations

Competing interests.

The author declares no competing financial interests.

Additional information

Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ .

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article.

Bondebjerg, I. The creative mind: cognition, society and culture. Palgrave Commun 3 , 19 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41599-017-0024-1

Download citation

Received : 14 September 2017

Accepted : 11 October 2017

Published : 31 October 2017

DOI : https://doi.org/10.1057/s41599-017-0024-1

Share this article

Anyone you share the following link with will be able to read this content:

Sorry, a shareable link is not currently available for this article.

Provided by the Springer Nature SharedIt content-sharing initiative

Quick links

  • Explore articles by subject
  • Guide to authors
  • Editorial policies

creative inventive minds essay

  • Search Menu
  • Browse content in Arts and Humanities
  • Browse content in Archaeology
  • Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology
  • Archaeological Methodology and Techniques
  • Archaeology by Region
  • Archaeology of Religion
  • Archaeology of Trade and Exchange
  • Biblical Archaeology
  • Contemporary and Public Archaeology
  • Environmental Archaeology
  • Historical Archaeology
  • History and Theory of Archaeology
  • Industrial Archaeology
  • Landscape Archaeology
  • Mortuary Archaeology
  • Prehistoric Archaeology
  • Underwater Archaeology
  • Zooarchaeology
  • Browse content in Architecture
  • Architectural Structure and Design
  • History of Architecture
  • Residential and Domestic Buildings
  • Theory of Architecture
  • Browse content in Art
  • Art Subjects and Themes
  • History of Art
  • Industrial and Commercial Art
  • Theory of Art
  • Biographical Studies
  • Byzantine Studies
  • Browse content in Classical Studies
  • Classical Literature
  • Classical Reception
  • Classical History
  • Classical Philosophy
  • Classical Mythology
  • Classical Art and Architecture
  • Classical Oratory and Rhetoric
  • Greek and Roman Archaeology
  • Greek and Roman Papyrology
  • Greek and Roman Epigraphy
  • Greek and Roman Law
  • Late Antiquity
  • Religion in the Ancient World
  • Digital Humanities
  • Browse content in History
  • Colonialism and Imperialism
  • Diplomatic History
  • Environmental History
  • Genealogy, Heraldry, Names, and Honours
  • Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing
  • Historical Geography
  • History by Period
  • History of Agriculture
  • History of Education
  • History of Gender and Sexuality
  • Industrial History
  • Intellectual History
  • International History
  • Labour History
  • Legal and Constitutional History
  • Local and Family History
  • Maritime History
  • Military History
  • National Liberation and Post-Colonialism
  • Oral History
  • Political History
  • Public History
  • Regional and National History
  • Revolutions and Rebellions
  • Slavery and Abolition of Slavery
  • Social and Cultural History
  • Theory, Methods, and Historiography
  • Urban History
  • World History
  • Browse content in Language Teaching and Learning
  • Language Learning (Specific Skills)
  • Language Teaching Theory and Methods
  • Browse content in Linguistics
  • Applied Linguistics
  • Cognitive Linguistics
  • Computational Linguistics
  • Forensic Linguistics
  • Grammar, Syntax and Morphology
  • Historical and Diachronic Linguistics
  • History of English
  • Language Variation
  • Language Families
  • Language Evolution
  • Language Reference
  • Language Acquisition
  • Lexicography
  • Linguistic Theories
  • Linguistic Typology
  • Linguistic Anthropology
  • Phonetics and Phonology
  • Psycholinguistics
  • Sociolinguistics
  • Translation and Interpretation
  • Writing Systems
  • Browse content in Literature
  • Bibliography
  • Children's Literature Studies
  • Literary Studies (Modernism)
  • Literary Studies (Romanticism)
  • Literary Studies (American)
  • Literary Studies (Asian)
  • Literary Studies (European)
  • Literary Studies (Eco-criticism)
  • Literary Studies - World
  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)
  • Literary Studies (19th Century)
  • Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)
  • Literary Studies (African American Literature)
  • Literary Studies (British and Irish)
  • Literary Studies (Early and Medieval)
  • Literary Studies (Fiction, Novelists, and Prose Writers)
  • Literary Studies (Gender Studies)
  • Literary Studies (Graphic Novels)
  • Literary Studies (History of the Book)
  • Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights)
  • Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)
  • Literary Studies (Postcolonial Literature)
  • Literary Studies (Queer Studies)
  • Literary Studies (Science Fiction)
  • Literary Studies (Travel Literature)
  • Literary Studies (War Literature)
  • Literary Studies (Women's Writing)
  • Literary Theory and Cultural Studies
  • Mythology and Folklore
  • Shakespeare Studies and Criticism
  • Browse content in Media Studies
  • Browse content in Music
  • Applied Music
  • Dance and Music
  • Ethics in Music
  • Ethnomusicology
  • Gender and Sexuality in Music
  • Medicine and Music
  • Music Cultures
  • Music and Culture
  • Music and Media
  • Music and Religion
  • Music Education and Pedagogy
  • Music Theory and Analysis
  • Musical Scores, Lyrics, and Libretti
  • Musical Structures, Styles, and Techniques
  • Musicology and Music History
  • Performance Practice and Studies
  • Race and Ethnicity in Music
  • Sound Studies
  • Browse content in Performing Arts
  • Browse content in Philosophy
  • Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art
  • Epistemology
  • Feminist Philosophy
  • History of Western Philosophy
  • Metaphysics
  • Moral Philosophy
  • Non-Western Philosophy
  • Philosophy of Action
  • Philosophy of Law
  • Philosophy of Religion
  • Philosophy of Language
  • Philosophy of Mind
  • Philosophy of Perception
  • Philosophy of Science
  • Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic
  • Practical Ethics
  • Social and Political Philosophy
  • Browse content in Religion
  • Biblical Studies
  • Christianity
  • East Asian Religions
  • History of Religion
  • Judaism and Jewish Studies
  • Qumran Studies
  • Religion and Education
  • Religion and Health
  • Religion and Politics
  • Religion and Science
  • Religion and Law
  • Religion and Art, Literature, and Music
  • Religious Studies
  • Browse content in Society and Culture
  • Cookery, Food, and Drink
  • Cultural Studies
  • Customs and Traditions
  • Ethical Issues and Debates
  • Hobbies, Games, Arts and Crafts
  • Lifestyle, Home, and Garden
  • Natural world, Country Life, and Pets
  • Popular Beliefs and Controversial Knowledge
  • Sports and Outdoor Recreation
  • Technology and Society
  • Travel and Holiday
  • Visual Culture
  • Browse content in Law
  • Arbitration
  • Browse content in Company and Commercial Law
  • Commercial Law
  • Company Law
  • Browse content in Comparative Law
  • Systems of Law
  • Competition Law
  • Browse content in Constitutional and Administrative Law
  • Government Powers
  • Judicial Review
  • Local Government Law
  • Military and Defence Law
  • Parliamentary and Legislative Practice
  • Construction Law
  • Contract Law
  • Browse content in Criminal Law
  • Criminal Procedure
  • Criminal Evidence Law
  • Sentencing and Punishment
  • Employment and Labour Law
  • Environment and Energy Law
  • Browse content in Financial Law
  • Banking Law
  • Insolvency Law
  • History of Law
  • Human Rights and Immigration
  • Intellectual Property Law
  • Browse content in International Law
  • Private International Law and Conflict of Laws
  • Public International Law
  • IT and Communications Law
  • Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law
  • Law and Society
  • Law and Politics
  • Browse content in Legal System and Practice
  • Courts and Procedure
  • Legal Skills and Practice
  • Primary Sources of Law
  • Regulation of Legal Profession
  • Medical and Healthcare Law
  • Browse content in Policing
  • Criminal Investigation and Detection
  • Police and Security Services
  • Police Procedure and Law
  • Police Regional Planning
  • Browse content in Property Law
  • Personal Property Law
  • Study and Revision
  • Terrorism and National Security Law
  • Browse content in Trusts Law
  • Wills and Probate or Succession
  • Browse content in Medicine and Health
  • Browse content in Allied Health Professions
  • Arts Therapies
  • Clinical Science
  • Dietetics and Nutrition
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Operating Department Practice
  • Physiotherapy
  • Radiography
  • Speech and Language Therapy
  • Browse content in Anaesthetics
  • General Anaesthesia
  • Neuroanaesthesia
  • Clinical Neuroscience
  • Browse content in Clinical Medicine
  • Acute Medicine
  • Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Clinical Genetics
  • Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics
  • Dermatology
  • Endocrinology and Diabetes
  • Gastroenterology
  • Genito-urinary Medicine
  • Geriatric Medicine
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Medical Oncology
  • Medical Toxicology
  • Pain Medicine
  • Palliative Medicine
  • Rehabilitation Medicine
  • Respiratory Medicine and Pulmonology
  • Rheumatology
  • Sleep Medicine
  • Sports and Exercise Medicine
  • Community Medical Services
  • Critical Care
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Forensic Medicine
  • Haematology
  • History of Medicine
  • Medical Ethics
  • Browse content in Medical Skills
  • Clinical Skills
  • Communication Skills
  • Nursing Skills
  • Surgical Skills
  • Browse content in Medical Dentistry
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
  • Paediatric Dentistry
  • Restorative Dentistry and Orthodontics
  • Surgical Dentistry
  • Medical Statistics and Methodology
  • Browse content in Neurology
  • Clinical Neurophysiology
  • Neuropathology
  • Nursing Studies
  • Browse content in Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  • Gynaecology
  • Occupational Medicine
  • Ophthalmology
  • Otolaryngology (ENT)
  • Browse content in Paediatrics
  • Neonatology
  • Browse content in Pathology
  • Chemical Pathology
  • Clinical Cytogenetics and Molecular Genetics
  • Histopathology
  • Medical Microbiology and Virology
  • Patient Education and Information
  • Browse content in Pharmacology
  • Psychopharmacology
  • Browse content in Popular Health
  • Caring for Others
  • Complementary and Alternative Medicine
  • Self-help and Personal Development
  • Browse content in Preclinical Medicine
  • Cell Biology
  • Molecular Biology and Genetics
  • Reproduction, Growth and Development
  • Primary Care
  • Professional Development in Medicine
  • Browse content in Psychiatry
  • Addiction Medicine
  • Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
  • Forensic Psychiatry
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Old Age Psychiatry
  • Psychotherapy
  • Browse content in Public Health and Epidemiology
  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health
  • Browse content in Radiology
  • Clinical Radiology
  • Interventional Radiology
  • Nuclear Medicine
  • Radiation Oncology
  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Browse content in Surgery
  • Cardiothoracic Surgery
  • Gastro-intestinal and Colorectal Surgery
  • General Surgery
  • Neurosurgery
  • Paediatric Surgery
  • Peri-operative Care
  • Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
  • Surgical Oncology
  • Transplant Surgery
  • Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgery
  • Vascular Surgery
  • Browse content in Science and Mathematics
  • Browse content in Biological Sciences
  • Aquatic Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Bioinformatics and Computational Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Genetics and Genomics
  • Microbiology
  • Molecular and Cell Biology
  • Natural History
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry
  • Research Methods in Life Sciences
  • Structural Biology
  • Systems Biology
  • Zoology and Animal Sciences
  • Browse content in Chemistry
  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Computational Chemistry
  • Crystallography
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Industrial Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Materials Chemistry
  • Medicinal Chemistry
  • Mineralogy and Gems
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Physical Chemistry
  • Polymer Chemistry
  • Study and Communication Skills in Chemistry
  • Theoretical Chemistry
  • Browse content in Computer Science
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Computer Architecture and Logic Design
  • Game Studies
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Mathematical Theory of Computation
  • Programming Languages
  • Software Engineering
  • Systems Analysis and Design
  • Virtual Reality
  • Browse content in Computing
  • Business Applications
  • Computer Games
  • Computer Security
  • Computer Networking and Communications
  • Digital Lifestyle
  • Graphical and Digital Media Applications
  • Operating Systems
  • Browse content in Earth Sciences and Geography
  • Atmospheric Sciences
  • Environmental Geography
  • Geology and the Lithosphere
  • Maps and Map-making
  • Meteorology and Climatology
  • Oceanography and Hydrology
  • Palaeontology
  • Physical Geography and Topography
  • Regional Geography
  • Soil Science
  • Urban Geography
  • Browse content in Engineering and Technology
  • Agriculture and Farming
  • Biological Engineering
  • Civil Engineering, Surveying, and Building
  • Electronics and Communications Engineering
  • Energy Technology
  • Engineering (General)
  • Environmental Science, Engineering, and Technology
  • History of Engineering and Technology
  • Mechanical Engineering and Materials
  • Technology of Industrial Chemistry
  • Transport Technology and Trades
  • Browse content in Environmental Science
  • Applied Ecology (Environmental Science)
  • Conservation of the Environment (Environmental Science)
  • Environmental Sustainability
  • Environmentalist Thought and Ideology (Environmental Science)
  • Management of Land and Natural Resources (Environmental Science)
  • Natural Disasters (Environmental Science)
  • Nuclear Issues (Environmental Science)
  • Pollution and Threats to the Environment (Environmental Science)
  • Social Impact of Environmental Issues (Environmental Science)
  • History of Science and Technology
  • Browse content in Materials Science
  • Ceramics and Glasses
  • Composite Materials
  • Metals, Alloying, and Corrosion
  • Nanotechnology
  • Browse content in Mathematics
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Biomathematics and Statistics
  • History of Mathematics
  • Mathematical Education
  • Mathematical Finance
  • Mathematical Analysis
  • Numerical and Computational Mathematics
  • Probability and Statistics
  • Pure Mathematics
  • Browse content in Neuroscience
  • Cognition and Behavioural Neuroscience
  • Development of the Nervous System
  • Disorders of the Nervous System
  • History of Neuroscience
  • Invertebrate Neurobiology
  • Molecular and Cellular Systems
  • Neuroendocrinology and Autonomic Nervous System
  • Neuroscientific Techniques
  • Sensory and Motor Systems
  • Browse content in Physics
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics
  • Biological and Medical Physics
  • Classical Mechanics
  • Computational Physics
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Electromagnetism, Optics, and Acoustics
  • History of Physics
  • Mathematical and Statistical Physics
  • Measurement Science
  • Nuclear Physics
  • Particles and Fields
  • Plasma Physics
  • Quantum Physics
  • Relativity and Gravitation
  • Semiconductor and Mesoscopic Physics
  • Browse content in Psychology
  • Affective Sciences
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Criminal and Forensic Psychology
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Educational Psychology
  • Evolutionary Psychology
  • Health Psychology
  • History and Systems in Psychology
  • Music Psychology
  • Neuropsychology
  • Organizational Psychology
  • Psychological Assessment and Testing
  • Psychology of Human-Technology Interaction
  • Psychology Professional Development and Training
  • Research Methods in Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Browse content in Social Sciences
  • Browse content in Anthropology
  • Anthropology of Religion
  • Human Evolution
  • Medical Anthropology
  • Physical Anthropology
  • Regional Anthropology
  • Social and Cultural Anthropology
  • Theory and Practice of Anthropology
  • Browse content in Business and Management
  • Business History
  • Business Ethics
  • Business Strategy
  • Business and Technology
  • Business and Government
  • Business and the Environment
  • Comparative Management
  • Corporate Governance
  • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Health Management
  • Human Resource Management
  • Industrial and Employment Relations
  • Industry Studies
  • Information and Communication Technologies
  • International Business
  • Knowledge Management
  • Management and Management Techniques
  • Operations Management
  • Organizational Theory and Behaviour
  • Pensions and Pension Management
  • Public and Nonprofit Management
  • Strategic Management
  • Supply Chain Management
  • Browse content in Criminology and Criminal Justice
  • Criminal Justice
  • Criminology
  • Forms of Crime
  • International and Comparative Criminology
  • Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice
  • Development Studies
  • Browse content in Economics
  • Agricultural, Environmental, and Natural Resource Economics
  • Asian Economics
  • Behavioural Finance
  • Behavioural Economics and Neuroeconomics
  • Econometrics and Mathematical Economics
  • Economic Methodology
  • Economic History
  • Economic Systems
  • Economic Development and Growth
  • Financial Markets
  • Financial Institutions and Services
  • General Economics and Teaching
  • Health, Education, and Welfare
  • History of Economic Thought
  • International Economics
  • Labour and Demographic Economics
  • Law and Economics
  • Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics
  • Microeconomics
  • Public Economics
  • Urban, Rural, and Regional Economics
  • Welfare Economics
  • Browse content in Education
  • Adult Education and Continuous Learning
  • Care and Counselling of Students
  • Early Childhood and Elementary Education
  • Educational Equipment and Technology
  • Educational Strategies and Policy
  • Higher and Further Education
  • Organization and Management of Education
  • Philosophy and Theory of Education
  • Schools Studies
  • Secondary Education
  • Teaching of a Specific Subject
  • Teaching of Specific Groups and Special Educational Needs
  • Teaching Skills and Techniques
  • Browse content in Environment
  • Applied Ecology (Social Science)
  • Climate Change
  • Conservation of the Environment (Social Science)
  • Environmentalist Thought and Ideology (Social Science)
  • Social Impact of Environmental Issues (Social Science)
  • Browse content in Human Geography
  • Cultural Geography
  • Economic Geography
  • Political Geography
  • Browse content in Interdisciplinary Studies
  • Communication Studies
  • Museums, Libraries, and Information Sciences
  • Browse content in Politics
  • African Politics
  • Asian Politics
  • Chinese Politics
  • Comparative Politics
  • Conflict Politics
  • Elections and Electoral Studies
  • Environmental Politics
  • European Union
  • Foreign Policy
  • Gender and Politics
  • Human Rights and Politics
  • Indian Politics
  • International Relations
  • International Organization (Politics)
  • International Political Economy
  • Irish Politics
  • Latin American Politics
  • Middle Eastern Politics
  • Political Theory
  • Political Behaviour
  • Political Economy
  • Political Institutions
  • Political Methodology
  • Political Communication
  • Political Philosophy
  • Political Sociology
  • Politics and Law
  • Public Policy
  • Public Administration
  • Quantitative Political Methodology
  • Regional Political Studies
  • Russian Politics
  • Security Studies
  • State and Local Government
  • UK Politics
  • US Politics
  • Browse content in Regional and Area Studies
  • African Studies
  • Asian Studies
  • East Asian Studies
  • Japanese Studies
  • Latin American Studies
  • Middle Eastern Studies
  • Native American Studies
  • Scottish Studies
  • Browse content in Research and Information
  • Research Methods
  • Browse content in Social Work
  • Addictions and Substance Misuse
  • Adoption and Fostering
  • Care of the Elderly
  • Child and Adolescent Social Work
  • Couple and Family Social Work
  • Developmental and Physical Disabilities Social Work
  • Direct Practice and Clinical Social Work
  • Emergency Services
  • Human Behaviour and the Social Environment
  • International and Global Issues in Social Work
  • Mental and Behavioural Health
  • Social Justice and Human Rights
  • Social Policy and Advocacy
  • Social Work and Crime and Justice
  • Social Work Macro Practice
  • Social Work Practice Settings
  • Social Work Research and Evidence-based Practice
  • Welfare and Benefit Systems
  • Browse content in Sociology
  • Childhood Studies
  • Community Development
  • Comparative and Historical Sociology
  • Economic Sociology
  • Gender and Sexuality
  • Gerontology and Ageing
  • Health, Illness, and Medicine
  • Marriage and the Family
  • Migration Studies
  • Occupations, Professions, and Work
  • Organizations
  • Population and Demography
  • Race and Ethnicity
  • Social Theory
  • Social Movements and Social Change
  • Social Research and Statistics
  • Social Stratification, Inequality, and Mobility
  • Sociology of Religion
  • Sociology of Education
  • Sport and Leisure
  • Urban and Rural Studies
  • Browse content in Warfare and Defence
  • Defence Strategy, Planning, and Research
  • Land Forces and Warfare
  • Military Administration
  • Military Life and Institutions
  • Naval Forces and Warfare
  • Other Warfare and Defence Issues
  • Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution
  • Weapons and Equipment

Inventive Minds: Creativity in Technology

Inventive Minds: Creativity in Technology

Inventive Minds: Creativity in Technology

  • Cite Icon Cite
  • Permissions Icon Permissions

Is invention really “99 percent perspiration and one percent inspiration” as Thomas Edison assured us? Inventive Minds assembles a group of authors well equipped to address this question: contemporary inventors of important new technologies, historians of science and industry, and cognitive psychologists interested in the process of creativity. In telling their stories, the inventors describe the origins of such remarkable devices as ultrasound, the electron microscope, and artificial diamonds. The historians help us look into the minds of innovators like Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Michael Faraday, and the Wright brothers, drawing on original notebooks and other sources to show how they made their key discoveries. Finally, cognitive psychologists explore the mental processes that figure in creative thinking. Contributing to the authors’ insight is their special focus on the “front end” of invention—where ideas come from and how they are transformed into physical prototypes. They answer three questions: How does invention happen? How does invention contrast with other commonly creative pursuits such as scientific inquiry, musical composition, or painting? And how might invention best happen—that is, what kinds of settings, conditions, and strategies appear to foster inventive activity? The book yields a wealth of information that will make absorbing reading for cognitive and social psychologists, social historians, and many working scientists and general readers who are interested in the psychology of personality and the roots of ingenuity.

Signed in as

Institutional accounts.

  • Google Scholar Indexing
  • GoogleCrawler [DO NOT DELETE]

Personal account

  • Sign in with email/username & password
  • Get email alerts
  • Save searches
  • Purchase content
  • Activate your purchase/trial code

Institutional access

  • Sign in with a library card Sign in with username/password Recommend to your librarian
  • Institutional account management
  • Get help with access

Access to content on Oxford Academic is often provided through institutional subscriptions and purchases. If you are a member of an institution with an active account, you may be able to access content in one of the following ways:

IP based access

Typically, access is provided across an institutional network to a range of IP addresses. This authentication occurs automatically, and it is not possible to sign out of an IP authenticated account.

Sign in through your institution

Choose this option to get remote access when outside your institution. Shibboleth/Open Athens technology is used to provide single sign-on between your institution’s website and Oxford Academic.

  • Click Sign in through your institution.
  • Select your institution from the list provided, which will take you to your institution's website to sign in.
  • When on the institution site, please use the credentials provided by your institution. Do not use an Oxford Academic personal account.
  • Following successful sign in, you will be returned to Oxford Academic.

If your institution is not listed or you cannot sign in to your institution’s website, please contact your librarian or administrator.

Sign in with a library card

Enter your library card number to sign in. If you cannot sign in, please contact your librarian.

Society Members

Society member access to a journal is achieved in one of the following ways:

Sign in through society site

Many societies offer single sign-on between the society website and Oxford Academic. If you see ‘Sign in through society site’ in the sign in pane within a journal:

  • Click Sign in through society site.
  • When on the society site, please use the credentials provided by that society. Do not use an Oxford Academic personal account.

If you do not have a society account or have forgotten your username or password, please contact your society.

Sign in using a personal account

Some societies use Oxford Academic personal accounts to provide access to their members. See below.

A personal account can be used to get email alerts, save searches, purchase content, and activate subscriptions.

Some societies use Oxford Academic personal accounts to provide access to their members.

Viewing your signed in accounts

Click the account icon in the top right to:

  • View your signed in personal account and access account management features.
  • View the institutional accounts that are providing access.

Signed in but can't access content

Oxford Academic is home to a wide variety of products. The institutional subscription may not cover the content that you are trying to access. If you believe you should have access to that content, please contact your librarian.

For librarians and administrators, your personal account also provides access to institutional account management. Here you will find options to view and activate subscriptions, manage institutional settings and access options, access usage statistics, and more.

Our books are available by subscription or purchase to libraries and institutions.

  • About Oxford Academic
  • Publish journals with us
  • University press partners
  • What we publish
  • New features  
  • Open access
  • Rights and permissions
  • Accessibility
  • Advertising
  • Media enquiries
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford Languages
  • University of Oxford

Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide

  • Copyright © 2024 Oxford University Press
  • Cookie settings
  • Cookie policy
  • Privacy policy
  • Legal notice

This Feature Is Available To Subscribers Only

Sign In or Create an Account

This PDF is available to Subscribers Only

For full access to this pdf, sign in to an existing account, or purchase an annual subscription.

Visit us today at 314 Main St, Cambridge, MA 02142 Close this alert

The MIT Press Bookstore

Inventive Minds: Marvin Minsky on Education

Description.

Six essays by artificial intelligence pioneer Marvin Minsky on how education can foster inventiveness, paired with commentary by Minsky's former colleagues and students.

Marvin Minsky was a pioneering researcher in artificial intelligence whose work led to both theoretical and practical advances. His work was motivated not only by technological advancement but also by the desire to understand the workings of our own minds. Minsky's insights about the mind provide fresh perspectives on education and how children learn. This book collects for the first time six essays by Minsky on children, learning, and the potential of computers in school to enrich children's development. In these essays Minsky discusses the shortcomings of conventional education (particularly in mathematics) and considers alternative approaches; reflects on the role of mentors; describes higher-level strategies for thinking across domains; and suggests projects for children to pursue. Each essay is paired with commentary by one of Minsky's former colleagues or students, which identifies Minsky's key ideas and connects his writings to current research. Minsky once observed that in traditional teaching, “instead of promoting inventiveness, we focus on preventing mistakes.” These essays offer Minsky's unique insights into how education can foster inventiveness.

Commentary by Hal Abelson, Walter Bender, Alan Kay, Margaret Minsky, Brian Silverman, Gary Stager, Mike Travers, Patrick Henry Winston

About the Author

Marvin Minsky (1927–2016) was Toshiba Professor of Media Arts and Sciences and Donner Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT. He was a cofounder of the MIT Media Lab and a consultant for the One Laptop Per Child project.

Cynthia Solomon worked with Marvin Minsky at the MIT AI Lab and at the Atari Cambridge Research Lab. She is the author of Computer Environments for Children (MIT Press).

Xiao Xiao worked with Marvin Minsky at the MIT Media Lab. She is a computer scientist, artist, pianist, thereminist, and Research Affiliate with the Tangible Media Group at the MIT Media Lab.

Hal Abelson is Class of 1922 Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a fellow of the IEEE. He is a founding director of Creative Commons, Public Knowledge, and the Free Software Foundation. Additionally, he serves as co-chair for the MIT Council on Educational Technology.

Patrick Henry Winston (1943–2019) was Ford Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Computer Science at MIT.

You May Also Like

Fire Island: A Century in the Life of an American Paradise

Fire Island: A Century in the Life of an American Paradise

The Anthropocene Cookbook: Recipes and Opportunities for Future Catastrophes

The Anthropocene Cookbook: Recipes and Opportunities for Future Catastrophes

Ownership of Knowledge: Beyond Intellectual Property

Ownership of Knowledge: Beyond Intellectual Property

Making the Radical University: Identity and Politics on the American College Campus, 1966–1991

Making the Radical University: Identity and Politics on the American College Campus, 1966–1991

Fascinating Folklore: A Compendium of Comics and Essays

Fascinating Folklore: A Compendium of Comics and Essays

Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope

Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope

Imperfect Markets and Imperfect Regulation: An Introduction to the Microeconomics and Political Economy of Power Markets

Imperfect Markets and Imperfect Regulation: An Introduction to the Microeconomics and Political Economy of Power Markets

Propaganda Art in the 21st Century

Propaganda Art in the 21st Century

Deconstructing the Fitness-Industrial Complex: How to Resist, Disrupt, and Reclaim What It Means to Be Fit in American Culture

Deconstructing the Fitness-Industrial Complex: How to Resist, Disrupt, and Reclaim What It Means to Be Fit in American Culture

The Family Roe: An American Story

The Family Roe: An American Story

To Free the Captives: A Plea for the American Soul

To Free the Captives: A Plea for the American Soul

Unwatchable

Unwatchable

Ignorance and Surprise: Science, Society, and Ecological Design (Inside Technology)

Ignorance and Surprise: Science, Society, and Ecological Design (Inside Technology)

Convergent Evolution in Stone-Tool Technology (Vienna Series in Theoretical Biology #22)

Convergent Evolution in Stone-Tool Technology (Vienna Series in Theoretical Biology #22)

Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy

Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy

Hub-and-Spoke Cartels: Why They Form, How They Operate, and How to Prosecute Them

Hub-and-Spoke Cartels: Why They Form, How They Operate, and How to Prosecute Them

Fiscal Policy under Low Interest Rates

Fiscal Policy under Low Interest Rates

Correction: Parole, Prison, and the Possibility of Change

Correction: Parole, Prison, and the Possibility of Change

Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism's Stealth Revolution (Near Future)

Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism's Stealth Revolution (Near Future)

The H-Word: The Peripeteia of Hegemony

The H-Word: The Peripeteia of Hegemony

Good Reception: Teens, Teachers, and Mobile Media in a Los Angeles High School (The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning)

Good Reception: Teens, Teachers, and Mobile Media in a Los Angeles High School (The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning)

How All Politics Became Reproductive Politics: From Welfare Reform to Foreclosure to Trump (Reproductive Justice: A New Vision for the 21st Century #2)

How All Politics Became Reproductive Politics: From Welfare Reform to Foreclosure to Trump (Reproductive Justice: A New Vision for the 21st Century #2)

Too Much Information: Understanding What You Don’t Want to Know

Too Much Information: Understanding What You Don’t Want to Know

Futureproof: Security Aesthetics and the Management of Life (Global Insecurities)

Futureproof: Security Aesthetics and the Management of Life (Global Insecurities)

Seizing the Means of Reproduction: Entanglements of Feminism, Health, and Technoscience (Experimental Futures)

Seizing the Means of Reproduction: Entanglements of Feminism, Health, and Technoscience (Experimental Futures)

The Radical Fool of Capitalism: On Jeremy Bentham, the Panopticon, and the Auto-Icon (Untimely Meditations #10)

The Radical Fool of Capitalism: On Jeremy Bentham, the Panopticon, and the Auto-Icon (Untimely Meditations #10)

Is Rape a Crime?: A Memoir, an Investigation, and a Manifesto

Is Rape a Crime?: A Memoir, an Investigation, and a Manifesto

Freaks, Gleeks, and Dawson's Creek: How Seven Teen Shows Transformed Television

Freaks, Gleeks, and Dawson's Creek: How Seven Teen Shows Transformed Television

Sign up to receive our newsletter.

News and information from Kendall Square's underground bookstore

Abstract image of a brain

The Creative Personality

Creative individuals are remarkable for their ability to adapt to almost any situation and to make do with whatever is at hand to reach their goals..

By Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi published July 1, 1996 - last reviewed on February 22, 2021

Of all human activities, creativity comes closest to providing the fulfillment we all hope to get in our lives. Call it full-blast living.

Creativity is a central source of meaning in our lives. Most of the things that are interesting, important, and human are the result of creativity. What makes us different from apes—our language, values, artistic expression, scientific understanding, and technology—is the result of individual ingenuity that was recognized, rewarded, and transmitted through learning.

When we're creative, we feel we are living more fully than during the rest of life. The excitement of the artist at the easel or the scientist in the lab comes close to the ideal fulfillment we all hope to get from life, and so rarely do. Perhaps only sex, sports, music, and religious ecstasy—even when these experiences remain fleeting and leave no trace—provide a profound sense of being part of an entity greater than ourselves. But creativity also leaves an outcome that adds to the richness and complexity of the future.

I have devoted 30 years of research to how creative people live and work, to make more understandable the mysterious process by which they come up with new ideas and new things. Creative individuals are remarkable for their ability to adapt to almost any situation and to make do with whatever is at hand to reach their goals . If I had to express in one word what makes their personalities different from others, it's complexity . They show tendencies of thought and action that in most people are segregated. They contain contradictory extremes; instead of being an "individual," each of them is a "multitude."

Here are the 10 antithetical traits often present in creative people that are integrated with each other in a dialectical tension.

1. Creative people have a great deal of physical energy, but they're also often quiet and at rest. They work long hours, with great concentration , while projecting an aura of freshness and enthusiasm. This suggests a superior physical endowment, a genetic advantage. Yet it is surprising how often individuals who in their seventies and eighties exude energy and health remember childhoods plagued by illness. It seems that their energy is internally generated, due more to their focused minds than to the superiority of their genes .

This does not mean that creative people are hyperactive , always "on." In fact, they rest often and sleep a lot. The important thing is that they control their energy; it's not ruled by the calendar, the dock, an external schedule. When necessary, they can focus it like a laser beam; when not, creative types immediately recharge their batteries. They consider the rhythm of activity followed by idleness or reflection very important for the success of their work. This is not a bio-rhythm inherited with their genes; it was learned by trial and error as a strategy for achieving their goals.

One manifestation of energy is sexuality . Creative people are paradoxical in this respect also. They seem to have quite a strong dose of eros, or generalized libidinal energy, which some express directly into sexuality. At the same time, a certain spartan celibacy is also a part of their makeup; continence tends to accompany superior achievement. Without eros, it would be difficult to take life on with vigor; without restraint, the energy could easily dissipate.

2. Creative people tend to be smart yet naive at the same time. How smart they actually are is open to question. It is probably true that what psychologists call the "g factor," meaning a core of general intelligence , is high among people who make important creative contributions.

The earliest longitudinal study of superior mental abilities, initiated at Stanford University by the psychologist Lewis Terman in 1921, shows rather conclusively that children with very high IQs do well in life, but after a certain point IQ does not seem to be correlated any longer with superior performance in real life. Later studies suggest that the cutoff point is around 120; it might be difficult to do creative work with a lower IQ, but an IQ beyond 120 does not necessarily imply higher creativity.

Another way of expressing this dialectic is the contrasting poles of wisdom and childishness. As Howard Gardner remarked in his study of the major creative geniuses of this century, a certain immaturity, both emotional and mental, can go hand in hand with deepest insights. Mozart comes immediately to mind.

Furthermore, people who bring about an acceptable novelty in a domain seem able to use well two opposite ways of thinking: the convergent and the divergent. Convergent thinking is measured by IQ tests, and it involves solving well-defined, rational problems that have one correct answer. Divergent thinking leads to no agreed-upon solution. It involves fluency, or the ability to generate a great quantity of ideas; flexibility, or the ability to switch from one perspective to another; and originality in picking unusual associations of ideas. These are the dimensions of thinking that most creativity tests measure and that most workshops try to enhance.

Yet there remains the nagging suspicion that at the highest levels of creative achievement the generation of novelty is not the main issue. People often claimed to have had only two or three good ideas in their entire career , but each idea was so generative that it kept them busy for a lifetime of testing, filling out, elaborating, and applying.

Divergent thinking is not much use without the ability to tell a good idea from a bad one, and this selectivity involves convergent thinking.

3. Creative people combine playfulness and discipline, or responsibility and irresponsibility. There is no question that a playfully light attitude is typical of creative individuals. But this playfulness doesn't go very far without its antithesis, a quality of doggedness, endurance, perseverance.

Nina Holton, whose playfully wild germs of ideas are the genesis of her sculpture, is very firm about the importance of hard work: "Tell anybody you're a sculptor and they'll say, 'Oh, how exciting, how wonderful.' And I tend to say, 'What's so wonderful?' It's like being a mason, or a carpenter, half the time. But they don't wish to hear that because they really only imagine the first part, the exciting part. But, as Khrushchev once said, that doesn't fry pancakes, you see. That germ of an idea does not make a sculpture which stands up. It just sits there. So the next stage is the hard work. Can you really translate it into a piece of sculpture?"

Jacob Rabinow, an electrical engineer, uses an interesting mental technique to slow himself down when work on an invention requires more endurance than intuition : "When I have a job that takes a lot of effort, slowly, I pretend I'm in jail. If I'm in jail, time is of no consequence. In other words, if it takes a week to cut this, it'll take a week. What else have I got to do? I'm going to be here for twenty years. See? This is a kind of mental trick. Otherwise you say, 'My God, it's not working,' and then you make mistakes. My way, you say time is of absolutely no consequence."

Despite the carefree air that many creative people affect, most of them work late into the night and persist when less driven individuals would not. Vasari wrote in 1550 that when Renaissance painter Paolo Uccello was working out the laws of visual perspective, he would walk back and forth all night, muttering to himself: "What a beautiful thing is this perspective!" while his wife called him back to bed with no success.

4. Creative people alternate between imagination and fantasy, and a rooted sense of reality. Great art and great science involve a leap of imagination into a world that is different from the present. The rest of society often views these new ideas as fantasies without relevance to current reality. And they are right. But the whole point of art and science is to go beyond what we now consider real and create a new reality. At the same time, this "escape" is not into a never-never land. What makes a novel idea creative is that once we see it, sooner or later we recognize that, strange as it is, it is true.

Most of us assume that artists—musicians, writers, poets, painters—are strong on the fantasy side, whereas scientists, politicians, and businesspeople are realists. This may be true in terms of day-to-day routine activities. But when a person begins to work creatively, all bets are off.

5. Creative people tend to be both extroverted and introverted. We're usually one or the other, either preferring to be in the thick of crowds or sitting on the sidelines and observing the passing show. In fact, in psychological research, extroversion and introversion are considered the most stable personality traits that differentiate people from each other and that can be reliably measured. Creative individuals, on the other hand, seem to exhibit both traits simultaneously.

6. Creative people are humble and proud at the same time. It is remarkable to meet a famous person who you expect to be arrogant or supercilious, only to encounter self-deprecation and shyness instead. Yet there are good reasons why this should be so. These individuals are well aware that they stand, in Newton's words, "on the shoulders of giants." Their respect for the area in which they work makes them aware of the long line of previous contributions to it, putting their own in perspective. They're also aware of the role that luck played in their own achievements. And they're usually so focused on future projects and current challenges that past accomplishments, no matter how outstanding, are no longer very interesting to them. At the same time, they know that in comparison with others, they have accomplished a great deal. And this knowledge provides a sense of security, even pride.

7. Creative people, to an extent, escape rigid gender role stereotyping. When tests of masculinity/femininity are given to young people, over and over one finds that creative and talented girls are more dominant and tough than other girls, and creative boys are more sensitive and less aggressive than their male peers.

This tendency toward androgyny is sometimes understood in purely sexual terms, and therefore it gets confused with homosexuality . But psychological androgyny is a much wider concept referring to a person's ability to be at the same time aggressive and nurturant, sensitive and rigid, dominant and submissive, regardless of gender. A psychologically androgynous person in effect doubles his or her repertoire of responses. Creative individuals are more likely to have not only the strengths of their own gender but those of the other one, too.

8. Creative people are both rebellious and conservative. It is impossible to be creative without having first internalized an area of culture. So it's difficult to see how a person can be creative without being both traditional and conservative and at the same time rebellious and iconoclastic. Being only traditional leaves an area unchanged; constantly taking chances without regard to what has been valued in the past rarely leads to novelty that is accepted as an improvement. The artist Eva Zeisel, who says that the folk tradition in which she works is "her home," nevertheless produces ceramics that were recognized by the Museum of Modern Art as masterpieces of contemporary design. This is what she says about innovation for its own sake:

"This idea to create something is not my aim. To be different is a negative motive, and no creative thought or created thing grows out of a negative impulse. A negative impulse is always frustrating. And to be different means 'not like this' and 'not like that.' And the 'not like'—that's why postmodernism, with the prefix of 'post,' couldn't work. No negative impulse can work, can produce any happy creation. Only a positive one."

But the willingness to take risks, to break with the safety of tradition, is also necessary. The economist George Stigler is very emphatic in this regard: "I'd say one of the most common failures of able people is a lack of nerve. They'll play safe games. In innovation, you have to play a less safe game, if it's going to be interesting. It's not predictable that it'll go well."

9. Most creative people are very passionate about their work, yet they can be extremely objective about it as well. Without the passion, we soon lose interest in a difficult task. Yet without being objective about it, our work is not very good and lacks credibility. Here is how the historian Natalie Davis puts it:

"I think it is very important to find a way to be detached from what you write, so that you can't be so identified with your work that you can't accept criticism and response, and that is the danger of having as much affect as I do. But I am aware of that and of when I think it is particularly important to detach oneself from the work, and that is something where age really does help."

10. Creative people's openness and sensitivity often exposes them to suffering and pain, yet also to a great deal of enjoyment. Most would agree with Rabinow's words: "Inventors have a low threshold of pain. Things bother them." A badly designed machine causes pain to an inventive engineer, just as the creative writer is hurt when reading bad prose.

Being alone at the forefront of a discipline also leaves you exposed and vulnerable. Eminence invites criticism and often vicious attacks. When an artist has invested years in making a sculpture, or a scientist in developing a theory, it is devastating if nobody cares.

Deep interest and involvement in obscure subjects often goes unrewarded, or even brings on ridicule. Divergent thinking is often perceived as deviant by the majority, and so the creative person may feel isolated and misunderstood.

Perhaps the most difficult thing for creative individuals to bear is the sense of loss and emptiness they experience when, for some reason, they cannot work. This is especially painful when a person feels his or her creativity drying out.

Yet when a person is working in the area of his of her expertise, worries and cares fall away, replaced by a sense of bliss. Perhaps the most important quality, the one that is most consistently present in all creative individuals, is the ability to enjoy the process of creation for its own sake. Without this trait, poets would give up striving for perfection and would write commercial jingles, economists would work for banks where they would earn at least twice as much as they do at universities, and physicists would stop doing basic research and join industrial laboratories where the conditions are better and the expectations more predictable.

From Creativity: The Work and Lives of 91 Eminent People , by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, published by HarperCollins, 1996.

  • Find a Therapist
  • Find a Treatment Center
  • Find a Psychiatrist
  • Find a Support Group
  • Find Teletherapy
  • United States
  • Brooklyn, NY
  • Chicago, IL
  • Houston, TX
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • New York, NY
  • Portland, OR
  • San Diego, CA
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Seattle, WA
  • Washington, DC
  • Asperger's
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Chronic Pain
  • Eating Disorders
  • Passive Aggression
  • Personality
  • Goal Setting
  • Positive Psychology
  • Stopping Smoking
  • Low Sexual Desire
  • Relationships
  • Child Development
  • Therapy Center NEW
  • Diagnosis Dictionary
  • Types of Therapy

January 2024 magazine cover

Overcome burnout, your burdens, and that endless to-do list.

  • Coronavirus Disease 2019
  • Affective Forecasting
  • Neuroscience
  • PRO Courses Guides New Tech Help Pro Expert Videos About wikiHow Pro Upgrade Sign In
  • EDIT Edit this Article
  • EXPLORE Tech Help Pro About Us Random Article Quizzes Request a New Article Community Dashboard This Or That Game Popular Categories Arts and Entertainment Artwork Books Movies Computers and Electronics Computers Phone Skills Technology Hacks Health Men's Health Mental Health Women's Health Relationships Dating Love Relationship Issues Hobbies and Crafts Crafts Drawing Games Education & Communication Communication Skills Personal Development Studying Personal Care and Style Fashion Hair Care Personal Hygiene Youth Personal Care School Stuff Dating All Categories Arts and Entertainment Finance and Business Home and Garden Relationship Quizzes Cars & Other Vehicles Food and Entertaining Personal Care and Style Sports and Fitness Computers and Electronics Health Pets and Animals Travel Education & Communication Hobbies and Crafts Philosophy and Religion Work World Family Life Holidays and Traditions Relationships Youth
  • Browse Articles
  • Learn Something New
  • Quizzes Hot
  • This Or That Game New
  • Train Your Brain
  • Explore More
  • Support wikiHow
  • About wikiHow
  • Log in / Sign up
  • Education and Communications
  • Personal Development

How to Develop a Creative Mind

Last Updated: February 28, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Rahti Gorfien, PCC . Rahti Gorfien is a Life Coach and the Founder of Creative Calling Coaching, LLC. She specializes in working with artists, entrepreneurs, and college students in creative fields. Rahti is accredited as a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) by the International Coach Federation, an ACCG Accredited ADHD Coach by the ADD Coach Academy, and a Career Specialty Services Provider (CSS). In addition, she has personal experience in the fields she coaches - she is an alumnus of the New York University Graduate Acting program and has been a working theater artist for over 30 years. She was voted one of the 15 Best Life Coaches in New York City by Expertise in 2018. There are 17 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 191,905 times.

Developing a creative mind means allowing yourself to relax and think outside of the box. You can stimulate creativity by setting aside time to brainstorm, breaking up your routine, and by seeking inspiration from people and places around you. Travel, meditation, and positive thinking can also do wonders.

Facilitating the Creative Process

Step 1 Set aside time for relaxing and brainstorming.

  • Schedule this time on a day off from work, or during a part of the day when you have no commitments.
  • Avoid scheduling this time right before an important deadline or appointment, which may distract you.

Step 2 Use your non-dominant hand for a short period of time.

  • It's a good idea to do this before you start your brainstorming session. This will encourage you to think differently.

Step 3 Designate a creative space with natural light.

  • A balcony, outdoor patio, or quiet garden are excellent options for a creative space.
  • Time your creative sessions in the morning or early afternoon to make the most of daylight hours.

Step 4 Remove all digital distractions to improve your focus.

  • For instance, you could brainstorm about alternatives to plastic product packaging or ideas for a compelling short story.

Step 6 Make pro and con lists to work through your ideas.

  • For instance, if you are thinking about incorporating velour into a room design, you could weigh practical pros and cons like its soft texture and cleaning requirements.

Step 7 Draw out your ideas to engage your brain in different ways.

  • For instance, if you are trying to come up with a concept for a novel, sketch out some of the locations where your story would take place.

Step 8 Create an inspirational collage that relates to a particular theme.

  • For instance, you might find inspiration to write a science fiction story by making a collage of strange natural phenomena and rare animals.
  • Place the collage in your creative space to help your thought process.

Developing New Ways of Thinking

Step 1 Practice mindful meditation for a few minutes every day.

  • Note that there is no right or wrong way to meditate.
  • You can download meditation apps if you find guided meditation exercises helpful.

Step 2 Try positive thinking to strengthen your creative mind.

  • Walking on a treadmill indoors or simply sitting outside do not have the same effect as a walk outdoors.

Changing Your Habits

Step 1 Change your daily routine to expand your thought process.

  • Taking new routes to get to work or school.
  • Changing the decor in your home or office regularly.
  • Listening to different music, podcasts, or radio stations.

Step 2 Hang out in different spots to expose yourself to new stimuli.

  • Fun hobbies could include photography, archery, painting, wood carving, baking, and cooking.

Step 4 Start getting up earlier in the morning to make the most of your time.

  • Try changing your wake-up time gradually to avoid overwhelming your body’s natural sleep cycle.

Seeking Inspiration

Step 1 Surround yourself with other creative people to get inspired.

  • Seek out artists and painters by attending vernissages, or taking painting or drawing classes.
  • Meet photographers by taking a photography course or visiting photography exhibitions.
  • Get in touch with writers by attending writing seminars or book readings.
  • Look for meet-up groups online that are dedicated to your interests.

Step 2 Read as much as possible to discover new ideas and themes.

  • Gain access to books for free by getting a membership card at your local library.
  • Access peer-reviewed scholarly articles online to get reliable information about different topics.

Step 3 Listen to TED talks or other inspiring lectures.

  • Browse available TED talks at https://www.ted.com/talks .
  • Visit the websites for educational institutions in your area to look at upcoming events.

Step 4 Travel whenever you can to gain new experiences.

  • Even short day trips can improve creativity by exposing us to a new environment for a period of time.
  • Make the most of your trips by visiting cultural landmarks like museums, art galleries, monuments, and famous buildings (e.g. the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC or the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.)

Expert Q&A

Klare Heston, LCSW

You Might Also Like

Exercise an Open Mind

  • ↑ https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/relaxation-techniques-for-stress-relief.htm
  • ↑ https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/a-20-minute-nature-break-relieves-stress
  • ↑ https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/five_reasons_to_take_a_break_from_screens
  • ↑ https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/ten_habits_of_highly_creative_people
  • ↑ https://positivepsychology.com/life-worth-living-setting-life-goals/
  • ↑ https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/mental-imagery/
  • ↑ https://theartofeducation.edu/2018/02/20/collage-canvasa-creative-lesson-students/
  • ↑ https://www.helpguide.org/harvard/benefits-of-mindfulness.htm
  • ↑ https://news.stanford.edu/2014/04/24/walking-vs-sitting-042414/
  • ↑ https://learningcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/changing-habits/
  • ↑ https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/exposure-therapy
  • ↑ Rahti Gorfien, PCC. Life Coach. Expert Interview. 17 December 2019.
  • ↑ https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/happy-trails/201509/six-reasons-get-hobby
  • ↑ https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-hygiene/benefits-of-waking-up-early
  • ↑ https://www.cornerstone.edu/blog-post/5-ways-reading-can-change-your-life-and-best-practices/
  • ↑ https://open.lib.umn.edu/publicspeaking/chapter/4-1-listening-vs-hearing/
  • ↑ https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_find_your_purpose_in_life

About This Article

Rahti Gorfien, PCC

Medical Disclaimer

The content of this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, examination, diagnosis, or treatment. You should always contact your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional before starting, changing, or stopping any kind of health treatment.

Read More...

To develop a creative mind, try scheduling quiet, uninterrupted time on a day off or after work so you won't be distracted by everyday worries. Also, consider taking up a new hobby, such as photography, painting, or baking, for a fun, creative outlet. Additionally, travel as much as you can, even for a day trip out of town, to expose yourself to new cultures and experiences. Alternatively, just going for a walk outdoors can stimulate your senses and clear your head. For more tips from our Social Work co-author, including how to seek inspiration from the world around you, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

  • Send fan mail to authors

Reader Success Stories

Anonymous

Oct 20, 2018

Did this article help you?

Mar Leah

Sep 17, 2018

Souradeep Mandal

Souradeep Mandal

Apr 20, 2018

K. Cav

Jun 7, 2018

Am I a Narcissist or an Empath Quiz

Featured Articles

2 Easy Ways to See Who You Are Following on Facebook

Trending Articles

The Office Trivia Quiz

Watch Articles

Harvest Spinach

  • Terms of Use
  • Privacy Policy
  • Do Not Sell or Share My Info
  • Not Selling Info

Don’t miss out! Sign up for

wikiHow’s newsletter

Quote Investigator®

Tracing Quotations

Goal of Education: Create People Who Are Capable of Doing New Things, Not Simply of Repeating What Other Generations Have Done

Jean Piaget? Eleanor Duckworth? Apocryphal?

learn07

The principal goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done.

Some websites list a citation in 1988, but Piaget died in 1980, and no information is provided about when or where it was spoken or written. Would you please examine the provenance of these words?

Quote Investigator: In November 1964 the journal “The Arithmetic Teacher” published an article by Eleanor Duckworth titled “Piaget Rediscovered”. Duckworth had worked with Piaget as a student, and she served as an interpreter for the Swiss psychologist during some U.S. conferences in 1964.

Piaget had recently attended two gatherings on cognitive research. One was held at Cornell University and the other at University of California, Berkeley. Piaget’s responses to questions from participants were recorded and translated by Duckworth. An instance of the quotation appeared in one of these responses.

The inclusive phrase “men and women” was not used; instead, the designation “men” was used to encompass both. The phrase “in the schools” was absent. Oddly, the word “principle” was used instead of “principal”. Boldface has been added to excerpts: [1] 1964 November, The Arithmetic Teacher, Volume 11, Number 7, Piaget rediscovered by Eleanor Duckworth, Start Page 496, Quote Page 499, Published by National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (The … Continue reading

The principle goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done—men who are creative, inventive, and discoverers. The second goal of education is to form minds which can be critical, can verify, and not accept everything they are offered. The great danger today is of slogans, collective opinions, ready-made trends of thought. We have to be able to resist individually, to criticize, to distinguish between what is proven and what is not. So we need pupils who are active; who learn early to find out by themselves, partly by their own spontaneous activity and partly through material we set up for them, and who learn early to tell what is verifiable and what is simply the first idea to come to them.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1968 the full passage listed above from 1964 was reprinted in the magazine section of “The New York Times” in an article titled “Giant in the Nursery — Jean Piaget”. The word “principle” was replaced by “principal”. This widely-read newspaper was an important locus for the dissemination of the quotation although the source of the words was not specified: [2] 1968 May 26, New York Times, Section: The New York Times Magazine, Giant in the Nursery — Jean Piaget: Piaget’s brainchildren — many 30 years old — are just now going to school in the U. … Continue reading

“The principal goal of education,” he once said, “is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done—men who are creative, inventive and discoverers. The second goal of education is to form minds which can be critical, can verify, and not accept everything they are offered…”

In 1973 the journalist Charles E. Silberman edited a collection called “The Open Classroom Reader”. The introduction he wrote included an instance of the quotation that used the phrase “men and women” instead of “men”: [3] 1973, The Open Classroom Reader, Edited by Charles E. Silberman, (Introduction by Charles E. Silberman dated March 1973), Quote Page xix, Published by Vintage Books: A Division of Random House, New … Continue reading

Jean Piaget , the most influential child psychologist of modern times, puts it in an even broader context. “The principal goal of education,” he insists, “is to create men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done—men and women who are creative, inventive, and discoverers,” who “have minds which can be critical, can verify, and not accept everything they are offered.”

In October 1984 a report about chemistry education in the United States was release by a task force convened by the American Chemical Society in Washington D.C. When the U.S. Congress held a committee hearing on science policy in July 1985 the report was inserted into the official record of the proceedings. An instance of the quotation was included in the report. The phrase “men and women” was also used here: [4] 1985 July, Congressional Hearing, House of Representatives, Ninety-ninth Congress, First session, Hearings before the Task Force on Science Policy of the Committee on Science and Technology, Hearings … Continue reading

“The principal goal of education is to create men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done… who are discoverers. We need pupils who are active, who learn early to find out for themselves, partly by their own spontaneous activity and partly through the materials we set up for them.” [Jean Piaget (1896-1981). educational psychologist]

In conclusion, QI believes that Jean Piaget can be credited with the remark printed in the 1964 citation. Modern versions of the saying have been modified to more directly embrace males and females.

Image Notes: Child with computer from PublicDomainPictures on Pixabay. “Reach for the Stars” image from Wikimedia Commons was created with POV-Ray 3.6 and rendered on the International Space Station (April 25 – May 5, 2002) by astronaut Mark Shuttleworth. This project was commissioned by Chris Cason, coordinator of the POV-Ray Development Team. The “Reach for the Stars” file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license. Jean Piaget image from Wikimedia Commons was provided by Roland Zumbühl of Picswiss. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Image files have been cropped and resized.

(Great thanks to Andrew Old whose query led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Also thanks to Jesse Sheidlower and Edward Callary for their comments. Any errors are the responsibility of QI. Many thanks to Jay Dillon who pointed to the valuable 1968 citation.)

Update History: On June 9 the 1968 citation was added.

Become a Writer Today

Essays About Creativity: Top 5 Examples and 7 Prompts

Creativity helps us understand and solve problems in different ways. Discover our top essays about creativity examples and use our prompts for your writing.

Albert Einstein defines creativity as “seeing what others see and thinking what others have not thought.” But what makes it such a popular topic to write about? Every person has a creative view and opinion on something, but not everyone knows how to express it. Writing utilizes ideas and imagination to produce written pieces, such as essays.

Creativity reinforces not only new views but also innovation around the world. Because creativity is a broad topic to write about, you’ll need several resources to help you narrow down what you want to discuss in your essay.

5 Essay Examples

1. way to foster creativity in young children by anonymous on ivypanda.com, 2. phenomenon of creativity and success by anonymous on ivypanda.com, 3. do schools kill creativity: essay on traditional education by anonymous on gradesfixer.com, 4. creativity in dreams essay by writer pete, 5. the importance of creativity in higher education by anonymous on gradesfixer.com, 1. what is creativity, 2. how creativity affects our daily lives, 3. the impact of creativity on students, 4. the importance of creativity, 5. creativity: a product of perception, 6. types of creativity, 7. art and creativity.

“There are different ways to foster creativity in young children. They include different approaches to the problem of making children more self-reliant, more creative, and more interested in the process of receiving education, obtaining experience, achieving certain results in the sphere of self-study.”

The essay delves into the importance of promoting creativity by teaching music to young students. The author says music’s intention, rhythm, and organizational features help people understand performance, improve their mood, and educate them about the world they live in, unlike noise. Music is an important area of life, so it is important to teach it correctly and inspire children.

Since music and creativity are both vital, the author notes that music teachers must find ways to facilitate ventures to enhance their students’ creativity. The author also believes that teachers must perform their duties appropriately and focus on shaping their students’ behavior, personality, and worldview. You might be interested in these articles about art .

“Over the past few decades, creativity has evolved from a characteristic normally associated with artistic activities into a quality that is found in people of various professions. However, in the 21st century, creativity has become a rather controversial issue.”

The author discusses that while creativity dramatically contributes to the success of individuals and companies, creativity in the 21st-century workplace still has mixed reception. They mention that creativity leads to new ideas and innovations, helps solve complex problems, and makes great leaders. 

However, some still see creative people as irrational, disorganized, and distracting in the workplace. This often results in companies rejecting applicants with this quality. Ultimately, the writer believes creativity is vital in all organizations today. Hiring people with this unique trait is highly beneficial and essential to achieving the company’s goals. For more inspiration, check out these essays about achievement and essays about curiosity .

“… the traditional education system has caused much controversy since the beginning of formal education because traditional education can hurt children’s ability to think creatively, innovate, and develop fascinating minds.”

The essay discusses how school rules and norms affect students’ expression of true individuality. The author mentions that today’s schools focus on students’ test performance, memorization, and compliance more than their aspirations and talents, preventing students from practicing and enhancing their creativity.

The author uses various articles, shows, and situations to elaborate on how schools kill a student’s creativity by forcing them to follow a specific curriculum as a means to succeed in life. It kills the student’s creativity as they become “robots” with the same beliefs, knowledge, and values. According to the writer, killing a child’s creativity leads to a lack of motivation and a wrong career direction.

“Creativity is enhanced whether one chooses to pay attention to it, or not. Each person has the capacity to learn much from their creative dreaming, if they would only think more creatively and openly when awake.”

The essay contains various studies to support claims about people being more creative when asleep. According to the author, the human brain processes more information when dreaming than in the waking state. While the brainstem is inactive, it responds to PGO Waves that trigger the human CMPG, which puts images into the dream to move. The author discusses two main perspectives to discuss how creative dreaming occurs.

First, creativity is enhanced when a person sleeps, not through dreaming but because the mind is free from stress, making the brain more focused on thinking and creating images. The second is that the dreaming mind gathers and processes more information than the human brain unconsciously accumulates daily. The author states that creativity helps express feelings and believes people should not take their creativity in dreams for granted.

“When students have the opportunity to be creative, they’ll have the freedom to express themselves however they want, which satisfies them and drives them to work hard.”

The essay focuses on how the role of creativity is getting slimmer as a student enters higher education. To explain the importance of creativity, the author shares their experience showing how elementary schools focus more on improving and training students’ creativity than higher education. Although rules and restrictions are essential in higher education, students should still practice creativity because it enhances their ability to think and quickly adapt to different situations.

If you want to use the latest grammar software, read our guide to using an AI grammar checker .

7 Prompts for Essays About Creativity

Creativity is an important topic that significantly affects an individual’s development. For this prompt, discuss the meaning of creativity according to experts versus the personal interpretation of creative individuals. Compare these explanations and add your opinion on these similarities and differences. You can even discuss creativity in your life and how you practice creativity in your hobbies, interests, and education.

Essays About Creativity: How creativity affects our daily lives?

There are several impacts of creativity in one’s life. It improves mental health, strengthens the immune system, and affects one’s ability to solve problems in school and real life. Sometimes, being creative helps us be more open to various perspectives to reduce our biases. 

Use this prompt to write about a specific situation you experienced where creativity made you more innovative, inventive, or imaginative. Discuss these particular moments by pointing out creativity’s impact on your goal and how things would differ without creativity. You may also be interested in learning about the different types of creativity .

Creativity significantly impacts students’ enthusiasm and feeling of belongingness as they share their passion. Additionally, creativity’s effects stretch to students’ career choices and mental health.

Use this prompt to start a discussion of the pros and cons of creativity with students. Give examples where a student’s creativity leads to their success or failure. You can also share your observations as a guardian or a student.  

Sometimes, when we lose touch with our creative side, our viewpoint becomes shallow. Creativity not only works for art but also broadens everyone’s perspectives in life. 

For this prompt, speak about how creativity matters and prove its importance by providing a situation. Theorize or discuss how creative people and people who fail to increase their creativity respond to the case. 

Perception is an underlying characteristic of creativity. It interprets what we observe, while creativity allows us to make sense of them. Use this prompt to define perception to the readers through the lens of creativity.

List your experience proving creativity is a product of perception. For example, people can have vastly different interpretations of a painting or sound depending on how they perceive it. 

Essays About Creativity: Types of creativity

There are several types of creativity, some people believe creativity is a natural talent, but others say it can be cultivated. In this prompt, briefly define creativity and identify each type, such as musical, artistic, or logical. 

Discuss how creativity can be taught and cultivated, and look into how some people are naturally creative. In your essay, use real-life examples; this could be someone you know who has studied a creative subject or a friend who is a naturally creative songwriter.

When people say creativity, they usually think about art because it involves imaginative and expressive actions. Art strongly indicates a person’s ongoing effort and emotional power. 

To write this essay effectively, show how art relates to a person’s creativity. Briefly explain creativity and art and incorporate the factors that link these two. Note that art can be anything from contemporary dance and music to sculptures and paintings. For help with your essay, check our round-up of best essay writing apps .

creative inventive minds essay

Maria Caballero is a freelance writer who has been writing since high school. She believes that to be a writer doesn't only refer to excellent syntax and semantics but also knowing how to weave words together to communicate to any reader effectively.

View all posts

creative inventive minds essay

How to Write a Creative Essay: Your Fresh 2023 Guide

creative inventive minds essay

What Is a Creative Essay

In a world full of logic, facts, and statistics, being able to unleash your true creativity might seem like a fresh breath of air. Sometimes, all we need is to shut our minds, let our thoughts flow through, and immerse ourselves in endless imagination. To think about it, being able to let your imagination run wild yields something genuinely exceptional, an outcome that is not restricted to mundane reality which eventually opens a whole new universe of broadened horizons.

Now, imagine that you can bring together your unique thoughts onto a piece of paper and organize them in a specific format, so when one reads through it, one can easily follow your points while simultaneously being captured by your set of perspectives. Notice how there is an intersection between creativity and organization? These two do not have to be mutually exclusive. That's why in this article we intend to explain how you can put your creative thoughts into words, arrange these words into paragraphs and finally structure these paragraphs in a well-defined creative essay outline.

Now that we have your undivided attention let us briefly explain what is a creative essay and what kind of assignment it represents when you're given one. A creative essay is more than just throwing words on paper to reach a certain character limit. Such an essay assesses your ability to discover and clarify notions to your audience. In academic writing, creative essays can provide you the chance to showcase your research ability together with your vocabulary and composition skills.

Nearly all educational levels, including universities, need students to produce creative essays. When picking creative essay topics, you often have great flexibility. Your professor may give you a subject or category to specialize in, but you are allowed to choose any concept as long as it fits the specified area.

While having the flexibility to write about whatever you want is fantastic, the thought may also be somewhat intimidating. So, read on to get the key tips on how to write a creative essay, along with a step-by-step guide in the following paragraphs.

And if you ever pondered how to write in cursive , we've got you covered on that too!

Helpful Tips for Writing a Creative Essay

How to Write a Creative Essay

In case you were wondering, yes, there are some tactics for writing a creative essay that you may employ. Therefore let our college essay writer provide you with the following useful advice to make your creative essay examples more intriguing and unique:

  • Start Off Strong: Using an attention-grabbing introduction is a common piece of creative writing advice. One approach to achieve this is to open the narrative with a retrospect, which might throw off the timeline by bringing the audience back into the heart of the scene at the very start of the narrative.
  • Employ an Outline: Make an outline after you have a topic. Consider your favorite book by your favorite creator. Does it follow a clear framework? A solid start, body, and closing? Very likely, it does, and your essay needs to reflect that. Therefore, before beginning, devote some time to developing a creative writing essay outline.
  • Take Risks: Do it without hesitation. Often, writings that take chances and push limits end up being the most impactful. Don't be shy to experiment with different writing styles, a unique writing tone, or a subject that causes you to feel uneasy. Present your own ideas and allow them to make a statement.
  • Use Descriptive Language : Provide descriptive elements that show off your vocabulary to help others understand your creative essay ideas. Writing creatively is all about illuminating a scene with phrases. Employ descriptive words to evoke strong mental images in your audience. To assist your reader in visualizing the situation you're portraying, include sensory information such as vision, sound, flavor, sensation, and scent.
  • Use Extended Metaphors: An extended metaphor strategy is frequently used in creative writing. It could be better to use an analogy to communicate the idea by making parallels, which people find simpler to grasp than to struggle through attempting to lay out a difficult topic in a basic manner.
  • Edit Extensively: Few succeed on the first try. When you've finished the initial version, go back and review it to see whether your arguments are in the best sequence and if your writing truly stands to reason. In the era of technology, it's simple to cut and paste sections of your essay into where they would suit better to help your essay flow smoother. Remove everything that doesn't support your essay's main idea or topic.

How to Write a Creative Essay: Breaking Down a Creative Essay Outline

Apart from the tips above, you might need a step-by-step guide demonstrating essential writing steps. While creative essays adhere to an outline much like other types of essays, such as book review format , they use a slightly different framework known as the 3-Point Structure. This involves: The Setup -> Confrontation -> Resolution. Let's break down each component below:

How to Write a Creative Essay

  • Set Up: Generally stated in the introduction, the setup establishes the characters and their connection with one another. What are the predefined links between the main members? Give the readers enough information to begin making assumptions about how the narrative will evolve.
  • Confrontation: Written in the body, the narrative must have a Defining Moment. At this conflicting point, the calm sea becomes a violent storm. This turn of events could be foreshadowed by the plot's hints, or it might just happen out of nowhere. Your decision as the author will determine your actions. For instance, you can start implying that the storyline seems strange before returning to normal without making significant changes. Alternatively, the narrative can be moving along without incident when a significant event occurs, abruptly changing the course of the story.
  • Resolution: After the story's pivotal moment, the drama will have intensified and gradually subsided. There will eventually come a time when the tension picks back up and reaches a pinnacle. Now, this could either be revealed at the end of the narrative (a cliffhanger) or disclosed anywhere between the middle and the beginning. This also depends on you as the author.

Creative Essay Introduction

Establishing the scene in a creative essay opening is the first thing to be done in any storytelling. Provide a brief description of the area, the period of the day, and the history of the present situation. This opening setting is key because it establishes the atmosphere and flow of the whole storyline. Having said that, be sure to enliven the scene as much as possible to let the reader see it perfectly. Employ explicit descriptions; poetic devices, analogies, and symbols are excellent ways to change the tone of the text right away.

Creative Essay Body

The bodies are employed to advance the storyline and convey the message. But you may also employ these sections to switch up the motion and emotion. For instance, as the author, you may include the conflict immediately if the plot progresses slowly. The reader is taken aback by this, which alters the narrative’s tone and pace. Also, you might stage a phony conflict to keep your audience on edge.

Creative Essay Conclusion

Usually, the creative writers may wrap up the narrative in the end. Set up a conflict, then give the resolution to wind up the conversation. Most of the time, the ending won't lead to the story's climax, but many expert writers employ cliffhangers. Using such creative essay writing techniques, the reader might be kept in a state of suspense without revealing what happened to the characters.

Creative Essay Topics and Ideas

Before putting yourself into creative essay writing, you should pick among creative writing essays topics that you will be talking about. Here we got some fresh creative essay topics from our top college essay writer to make your choice easier:

  • Explain an event in your life that spiraled out of control and flipped its course.
  • Create a scenario that directs the end of the world.
  • Camouflage the concept of love in a story that is completely irrelevant.
  • Design in a story in which one person's beliefs or ideas helped reform the future of society.
  • Propose a scenario in the distant future in which technology controls all.
  • Describe something that you can't live without; it might be your hobby or a thing that you are dedicated to.
  • Express your thoughts about a topic that hurts you.
  • Imagine that you became invisible for one day. What would you do?
  • What would your reaction be if one day you woke up in someone else's body

Naturally, you can create one that is completely unique to you and the ideas that you form. These creative writing topics are here to get you started on the right path towards a brilliant story.

Creative College Essay Topics

Now that our coursework writers guided your curiosity through different creative writing tips and writing structure, you might fancy some topics for creative nonfiction essay to give you a more clear idea. Let us walk you through some inspirational creative essay titles:

  • 'Being My True-Self in Solitude' - Describe when you were completely alone and what lessons you took from it. Here you can examine the notion of isolation and how it may inspire your creativity. You can also discuss a solo excursion you undertook, a moment when you felt abandoned, or a period when you deliberately sought solitude to contemplate and refresh.
  • 'My Life's Soundtrack' - Talk about your favorite song or a piece of music that sums up your character or reflects your life. Your essay might examine a specific line of lyrics that speaks to your life experience. You can also describe how the beats and rhythm highlight a particular memory or challenge you overcame.
  • 'Dear Future Me' - In this essay letter, you can converse with your future self in 10 years. First, talk about your present self, what you're grateful for, and what you wish would go differently in the future. Ask your older self questions about how things have changed over these years, and reflect upon your main aspirations.
  • 'My Perfect Imperfections' - Recall a moment when you acknowledge your weaknesses or flaws. Appreciate the thought that imperfections are a normal and lovely aspect of human existence. You may also discuss overcoming self-doubt or a physical trait you used to detest but have come to adore.

Need Some Creative Writing Help?

Choose your personal paper writer on our service and check it out!

Example of a Creative Essay

Aldrine was already hitting his mid-30’s and the pressure from parents and peers was building up fast. While he admitted that marriage was an essential rite of passage, he was also keen not to marry an entirely incompatible partner with whom he would struggle all through adulthood. The father was already losing patience and several of his peers had been sent with threats that he would eventually be ostracized.

Did you like it? You can also buy essays online from us, and our authors will write it flawlessly and within the stipulated time frame. You can also read an article about book review format , there you will also find useful information.

FAQs on Creative Essay Writing

If you feel like some questions were left unanswered, don't you feel disappointed just yet! Our dissertation writers for hire compiled the most frequently asked question on creative essay writing, so take a look for additional information:

What Are the 7 Types of Creative Writing?

How to Write a Creative Essay

  • Poetry - The craft of creating poetry that expresses meaning and emotion using rhythm, meter, and metaphorical language.
  • Fiction - Writing that conveys a narrative, whether through smaller pieces like short stories or longer ones like books or romances.
  • Creative Nonfiction - A style of writing that uses literary devices to vividly and engagingly tell a genuine narrative or provide scientific facts.
  • Drama - Writing that is meant to be acted, like plays or screenwriting.
  • Songwriting - Composing songs with words and music to express emotion, share stories, or deliver a point.
  • Scriptwriting - Writing dramatized, fictional, or nonfictional screenplays for films, tv programs, or other graphic mediums.
  • Memoir and Autobiography - Writing that chronicles a person's life, either from their standpoint or through the lens of a certain topic or period

What Are the 5 C's of Creative Writing?

  • Character - Helps a plot come to life and maintain readers' attention.
  • Conflict - Offers the outcomes that make a story more intriguing.
  • Context - Adds the setting, period, and other relevant sociological or historical information to help readers better understand the characters' motivations and actions.
  • Craft - Includes writing aspects like sentence structure and literary devices to help authors create a more effective piece.
  • Creativity - A literary work that stands out and is compelling due to its originality and vision. It could require playing around with the terminology and experimenting with the story.

Is Creative Writing a Skill?

Even though some people are naturally gifted writers, anyone can acquire the craft of creative writing if they put in the necessary time and effort. If you wish to develop your creative writing qualities, keep composing until you feel at ease with a specific storytelling style or until you see an improvement. Any blunders you make may be viewed as chances to discover more about who you are, which can also enhance your writing abilities.

Wrapping Up

As we come to an end, we hope you gained a clear insight into what is creative essay and how to write it. Some people will always find it simpler to write creative essays than others. Yet, by putting the tips above into practice, you should be in a strong position to generate work that you're happy with.

You could be left-brained, more comfortable with analytical thought processes than with eloquent language. In this case, you may embark on a journey with the help of our qualified paper writer team, who has produced a ton of creative college essay topics. We know that every creative essay is different, and each of our writers can vividly depict a scene that will astound you. Have some doubts? Buy essays online today and be assured of our promise!

Are You Short on Creative Writing Topics?

Whether you need a compelling personal statement, a thought-provoking argumentative essay, or a captivating narrative, we've got you covered.

Related Articles

How to Write a Spooky Essay on Halloween

19th Edition of Global Conference on Catalysis, Chemical Engineering & Technology

  • Victor Mukhin

Victor Mukhin, Speaker at Chemical Engineering Conferences

Victor M. Mukhin was born in 1946 in the town of Orsk, Russia. In 1970 he graduated the Technological Institute in Leningrad. Victor M. Mukhin was directed to work to the scientific-industrial organization "Neorganika" (Elektrostal, Moscow region) where he is working during 47 years, at present as the head of the laboratory of carbon sorbents.     Victor M. Mukhin defended a Ph. D. thesis and a doctoral thesis at the Mendeleev University of Chemical Technology of Russia (in 1979 and 1997 accordingly). Professor of Mendeleev University of Chemical Technology of Russia. Scientific interests: production, investigation and application of active carbons, technological and ecological carbon-adsorptive processes, environmental protection, production of ecologically clean food.   

Title : Active carbons as nanoporous materials for solving of environmental problems

Quick links.

  • Submit Abstract
  • Registration

Watsapp

thesis definition in research

thesis definition in research

IMAGES

  1. creative inventive minds

    creative inventive minds essay

  2. Inventive Minds: Marvin Minsky on Education by Marvin Minsky

    creative inventive minds essay

  3. Creative inventive minds Lesson 1 Inventions related works

    creative inventive minds essay

  4. 026 Creative Essay Example ~ Thatsnotus

    creative inventive minds essay

  5. Walter Gropius Quote: “Limitation makes the creative mind inventive.”

    creative inventive minds essay

  6. ⇉Habits of Mind for a Culture of Inquiry Essay Example

    creative inventive minds essay

VIDEO

  1. Inventive Minds facts

  2. CREATIVE MINDS INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL CBSE INSPECTION VIDEO

  3. The Most Mind-Blowing Gadgets of the Future Revealed

  4. Amazing 3D Billboard you must see #china #shorts

  5. Writing for Screens LIVESTREAMS

  6. Inventive Inventors: Who Invented What Quiz

COMMENTS

  1. Minsky's thoughts on thinking

    Daniel Klein October 23, 2018 Book cover of Inventive Minds Marvin Minsky is famous for his many pioneering contributions to the field of artificial intelligence—including founding MIT's first...

  2. Inventive Minds

    Description Author (s) Praise Resources Open Access Six essays by artificial intelligence pioneer Marvin Minsky on how education can foster inventiveness, paired with commentary by Minsky's former colleagues a...

  3. Inventive Minds: Marvin Minsky on Education

    Six essays by artificial intelligence pioneer Marvin Minsky on how education can foster inventiveness, paired with commentary by Minsky's former colleagues and students. Marvin Minsky was a pioneering researcher in artificial intelligence whose work led to both theoretical and practical advances.

  4. Inventive Minds: Marvin Minsky on Education

    Inventive Minds: Marvin Minsky on Education. Edited by Cynthia Solomon and Xiao Xiao. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2019. Abstract Six essays by artificial intelligence pioneer Marvin Minsky on how education can foster inventiveness, paired with commentary by Minsky's former colleagues and students.

  5. Train Your Brain to Be More Creative

    You have to hone it. Here are a few ways to do that, based on neuroscience. Engage with nature: Looking at trees and leaves, instead of our electronic devices, reduces our anxiety, lowers our ...

  6. Inventive Minds

    About Inventive Minds. Six essays by artificial intelligence pioneer Marvin Minsky on how education can foster inventiveness, paired with commentary by Minsky's former colleagues and students. Marvin Minsky was a pioneering researcher in artificial intelligence whose work led to both theoretical and practical advances. His work was motivated ...

  7. The creative mind: cognition, society and culture

    The impact of cognitive theory on for instance the humanities and social science is still heavily debated, and many researchers tend to see cognitive theory as reductionist and deterministic in ...

  8. Inventive Minds: Marvin Minsky on Education

    In these essays Minsky discusses the shortcomings of conventional education (particularly in mathematics) and considers alternative approaches; reflects on the role of mentors; describes...

  9. Inventive Minds: Creativity in Technology

    Inventive Minds: Creativity in Technology https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780195071702.001.0001 Online ISBN: 9780197735893 Print ISBN: 9780195071702 Publisher: Oxford University Press Book Inventive Minds: Creativity in Technology Get access Robert J Weber (ed.), David N Perkins (ed.) Published: 26 November 1992 Cite Permissions Share Abstract

  10. Inventive Minds: Marvin Minsky on Education

    Six essays by artificial intelligence pioneer Marvin Minsky on how education can foster inventiveness, paired with commentary by Minsky's former colleagues and students. Marvin Minsky was a pioneering researcher in artificial intelligence whose work led to both theoretical and practical advances. His work was motivated not only by technological advancement but also by the desire to understand ...

  11. Secrets of the Creative Brain

    Some regions of the brain are highly specialized, receiving sensory information from our eyes, ears, skin, mouth, or nose, or controlling our movements. We call these regions the primary visual ...

  12. Inventive Minds: Creativity in Technology

    Inventive Minds assembles a group of authors well equipped to address this question: contemporary inventors of important new technologies, historians of science and industry, and cognitive psychologists interested in the process of creativity. ... Finally, cognitive psychologists explore the mental processes that figure in creative thinking ...

  13. The Creative Personality

    1. Creative people have a great deal of physical energy, but they're also often quiet and at rest. They work long hours, with great concentration, while projecting an aura of freshness and...

  14. How to Develop a Creative Mind (with Pictures)

    1 Set aside time for relaxing and brainstorming. To be creative, your mind should be at ease and free from distractions. Schedule quiet, uninterrupted time to relax and let your mind wander. Once everyday stress and worries have left your mind, you will be apt to imagine and cultivate new ideas. [1]

  15. Goal of Education: Create People Who Are Capable of Doing New Things

    The principle goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done—men who are creative, inventive, and discoverers. The second goal of education is to form minds which can be critical, can verify, and not accept everything they are offered.

  16. Essay about Creativity and Innovation

    According to Paul Trott, innovation refers to managing the actions which are involved in the creation of idea, advancement in technology, production, and promotion of a new product or service (Trott, 2016). An innovative process starts with a need or opportunity or a new problem that requires a solution in a different way.

  17. Essays About Creativity: Top 5 Examples And 7 Prompts

    5 Essay Examples 1. Way To Foster Creativity In Young Children by Anonymous on IvyPanda.Com "There are different ways to foster creativity in young children. They include different approaches to the problem of making children more self-reliant, more creative, and more interested in the process of receiving education, obtaining experience, achieving certain results in the sphere of self-study."

  18. Creative Essay: Topics, Examples, Tips, Outline

    How to Write a Creative Essay: Breaking Down a Creative Essay Outline. Apart from the tips above, you might need a step-by-step guide demonstrating essential writing steps. While creative essays adhere to an outline much like other types of essays, such as book review format, they use a slightly different framework known as the 3-Point ...

  19. bac 2017

    We would like to show you a description here but the site won't allow us.

  20. Victor Mukhin

    Catalysis Conference is a networking event covering all topics in catalysis, chemistry, chemical engineering and technology during October 19-21, 2017 in Las Vegas, USA. Well noted as well attended meeting among all other annual catalysis conferences 2018, chemical engineering conferences 2018 and chemistry webinars.

  21. writing center yeshiva university

    First visit? Register for an account . Returning? Log in below. SELECT A SCHEDULE. F23 WRITTEN FEEDBACK. F23 IN-PERSON Appointments. F23 ONLINE Appointments. Having trouble loggin

  22. guelph humber creative writing

    Jump to navigation Skip to content. Search form. P&W on Facebook; P&W on Twitter; P&W on Instagram; Find details about every creative writing competition—including poetry contes

  23. Machine-Building Plant (Elemash)

    In 1954, Elemash began to produce fuel assemblies, including for the first nuclear power plant in the world, located in Obninsk. In 1959, the facility produced the fuel for the Soviet Union's first icebreaker. Its fuel assembly production became serial in 1965 and automated in 1982. 1. Today, Elemash is one of the largest TVEL nuclear fuel ...