Understanding Creativity Approaches with its basic Definitions & Nature

Creativity is the ability to generate novel and valuable ideas or solutions, creativity encompasses a diverse array of cognitive processes and behaviors. In this article, we’ll explore the definitions and creativity approaches proposed by key figures in the field of psychology: Torrance, Getzels and Jackson, Guilford, Wallach, and Kogan.


Definitions of Creativity  

Reed: “Creating a novel and useful product or situation.

APA defined creativity as the ability to produce or develop original work, theories, techniques, or thoughts. A creative individual typically displays originality, imagination, and expressiveness.

Sternberg & Ben-Zeev (2001): “Creativity is the ability to produce work that is novel (original and unexpected), high in quality, and appropriate (useful).”

Amabile (1996) defines creativity as “the production of novel and useful ideas.” She emphasizes that creativity is not just about coming up with new ideas; it is also about making sure that those ideas are valuable or useful.

Sternberg & Lubart (1995) define creativity as “the ability to produce novel and adaptive responses to problems, questions, or situations.” They emphasize that creativity is not just about coming up with new ideas; it is also about being able to use those ideas to solve problems or adapt to new situations.

Florida (2010). argues that creativity is the driving force of economic growth in the 21st century. He defines creativity as “the ability to produce original, useful work.”

Andreasen (1987). argues that creativity is a product of the brain’s ability to make connections between seemingly unrelated ideas. She calls this ability “synergy” and suggests that it is a key factor in creativity.

The Nature of Creativity

Creativity includes convergent thinking, as well as divergent thinking (Dietrich & Kanso, 2010; Ward & Kolomyts, 2010). Divergent production is measured by the number of different responses that the test-taker makes. In contrast, convergent production asks the test-taker to supply a single, best response, and the researchers measure the quality of that response. Many situations require one especially creative solution, rather than several less useful solutions.

Creativity is associated with many regions within the left hemisphere, as well as the right brain (Dietrich, 2007; Dietrich & Kanso, 2010; Feist, 2010).

Creativity can occur when we use focused attention (conscious attention) as well as defocused attention (altered states of consciousness). People can be creative when they are consciously focusing on a task. If ideas occur to people when they are daydreaming, these ideas are not especially creative (Dietrich & Kanso, 2010).

Newell, Shaw and Simon (1963) have explained the four criteria nature of creativity  :
a) Novelty and usefulness
b) Rejects previously accepted ideas
c) Requires intense motivation and persistence
d) Results from organizing the unclear situation in a coherent, clear and new way.

Sternberg (2006) reports five commonalities in the research of creativity. These are:

1) Creativity involves thinking that aims at producing ideas or products that are relatively novel and that are, in some respect, compelling.
2) Creativity has some domain-specific and domain-general elements in the sense that it needs some specific knowledge, but there are certain elements of creativity that cut across different domains.
3) Creativity is measurable, at least to some extent.
4) Creativity can be developed and promoted.
5) Creativity is not highly rewarded in practice, as it is supposed to be in theory.

Creativity Approaches

There are four main approaches to creativity.

  1. Guilford’s Approaches of creativity
  2. Torrance’s Approaches of creativity
  3. Getzels & Jackson;s Approaches of creativity
  4. Wallach & Kogan’s Approaches of creativity


1. Guilford’s Classic Creativity Approach

J.P. Guilford (l950) first distinguished the thought processes of creative people from those of other people in terms of convergent and divergent thinking. Guilford (1986) considered creative thinking as involving divergent thinking. This approach is also called as Structure of Intellect Model 

Convergent thinking-the type required for traditional IQ tests-involves the application of logic and knowledge to narrow the number of possible solutions to a problem until one’s thoughts “converge” on the most appropriate choice.

Divergent thinking is closely associated with creativity and originality and involves the ability to envision multiple ways to solve a problem.

Guilford’s Structure of Intellect (SOI) model, introduced in 1950, identified five operations of the intellect: cognition, production, memory, evaluation, and divergent thinking. Divergent thinking, in particular, was considered crucial for creativity. Guilford further divided divergent thinking into six distinct components:

  1. Fluency: The ability to generate a large number of ideas or solutions.
  2. Flexibility: The ability to switch between different categories of ideas or approaches.
  3. Originality: The ability to produce ideas that are novel and unexpected.
  4. Elaboration: The ability to develop and detail ideas.
  5. Sensitivity: The ability to identify problems and recognize potential solutions.
  6. Redefinition: The ability to see things in new and different ways.

Guilford suggested that creativity involves divergent thinking, convergent thinking, and the ability to transform information. He emphasized the importance of recognizing the diversity of creative talents and abilities, advocating for a broader perspective on intelligence beyond traditional measures.

2. Torrance’s Creativity Approach

Ellis Paul Torrance, often referred to as the “Father of Modern Creativity,” developed a framework for understanding and assessing creativity. Here are some key aspects of Torrance’s approach:

Divergent Thinking: Torrance emphasized divergent thinking as the basis for creativity. Divergent thinking is the ability to generate many different ideas from a single starting point.

Torrance emphasized divergent thinking—the ability to generate multiple solutions to a problem—as a crucial component of creativity. His approach focused on nurturing creative thinking skills through education and fostering an environment that encourages risk-taking and unconventional ideas.

The Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT) is a test of creativity created by Ellis Paul Torrance, based  on J.P. Guilford’s work. The TTCT originally involved simple tests of divergent thinking and other problem-solving skills.

  1. Fluency: The total number of interpretable, meaningful, and relevant ideas generated in response to the stimulus.
  2. Flexibility: The number of different categories of relevant responses.
  3. Originality: The statistical rarity of the responses.
  4. Elaboration: The amount of detail in the responses.

The third edition of the TTCT in 1984 removed the Flexibility scale from the figural test, but added Resistance to Premature Closure (based on Gestalt Psychology) and Abstractness of Titles as two new criterion-referenced scores on the figural.

Torrance called the new scoring procedure Streamlined Scoring. With the five norm-referenced measures.

The TTCT was developed in 1966, and it has been re-normed four times: 1974, 1984, 1990 and 1998. There are two forms, TTCT-Verbal and Figural with two parallel tests (form A and B). Each test is expected to measure

  1. Fluency: The number of relevant ideas; shows an ability to produce a number of figural images.
  2. Flexibility: Flexibility is the individual’s ability to produce not only a large number of responses, ideas or solutions to a problem, but also a variety of responses, ideas or solutions to a problem.
  3. Originality: The number of statistically infrequent ideas; shows an ability to produce uncommon or unique responses.
  4. Elaboration: The number of added ideas; demonstrates the subject’s ability to develop and elaborate on ideas.
  5. Abstractness of Titles: The degree beyond labeling; based on the idea that creativity requires an abstraction of thought. It measures the degree a title moves beyond concrete labeling of the pictures drawn.
  6. Resistance to Premature Closure: The degree of psychological openness; based on the belief that creative behaviour requires a person to consider a variety of information when processing information and to keep an “open mind.”

He added 13 criterion-referenced measures which include: emotional expressiveness, story-telling articulateness, movement or actions, expressiveness of titles, syntheses of incomplete figures, synthesis of lines, of circles, unusual visualization, extending or breaking boundaries, humor, richness of imagery, colorfulness of imagery, and fantasy1.

Format of The Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT):

  • Comes in both figural (drawing-based) and verbal (writing-based) versions.
  • Uses open-ended prompts like drawing unusual uses for a brick or completing hypothetical scenarios.
  • Takes about 90 minutes to complete.

Types of tests:

  • Figural (drawing-based): Three exercises involving completing incomplete figures, drawing imaginary objects, and adding details to everyday objects.
  • Verbal (word-based): Six activities like asking questions, guessing causes and consequences, and coming up with unusual uses for objects.

The TTCT assesses how creatively a child’s mind works and are often given to children to determine advanced placement or as part of an entrance examination. They are very different from intelligence and reasoning tests your child may have already taken.

3. Getzels and Jackson’s Creativity approach 

Getzels and Jackson’s theory of creativity, outlined in their 1962 book “Creativity and Intelligence,” challenged the prevailing notion of intelligence as a single, monolithic ability. Instead, they proposed a two-factor model of giftedness based on their research with high-school students.

Getzels and Jackson, along with Mel Rhodes, studied the relationship between problem-solving and creativity. Their work highlighted the significance of understanding the creative process in problem-solving situations.

Getzels and Jackson contributed significantly to the study of creativity, proposing a theory that emphasized the role of problem-solving and the interplay between intelligence and creativity. Their work focused on understanding how individuals approach and tackle problems, highlighting the complex relationship between intelligence and creative thinking.

1. Problem-Solving Approach
– They believed that creativity emerges during problem-solving situations. According to their theory, when individuals face challenging problems, their creative thinking abilities come into play as they attempt to find solutions.

2. Interaction of Intelligence and Creativity:
– Getzels and Jackson highlighted that intelligence and creativity are interconnected but distinct. While intelligence involves traditional problem-solving abilities and knowledge, creativity involves approaching problems in unconventional ways and generating original solutions.

3. Divergent and Convergent Thinking:
– They emphasized both divergent and convergent thinking in creative problem-solving. Divergent thinking involves generating multiple ideas or solutions, while convergent thinking involves analyzing and selecting the best solution from the generated ideas.

4. Complex Problem-Solving:
– Their theory suggested that truly creative solutions often emerge from dealing with complex, ambiguous, or ill-defined problems. In these situations, individuals need to think flexibly and consider multiple perspectives to find innovative solutions.

They emphasized that creativity often emerges from the interaction between an individual’s unique cognitive abilities and the specific context or problem they face. This approach underscores the dynamic nature of creativity and its sensitivity to environmental factors.

4 Wallach and Kogan creativity approach 

Wallach and Kogan explored divergent and convergent thinking as essential components of creativity.  Their research emphasized the balance between these two thinking modes in fostering creativity. T

They argued that effective creative thinking involves both the generation of diverse ideas and the ability to refine and evaluate them critically.

Graham Wallas’s (1962) study of well-known scientists and other innovators yielded a widely used four-stages of the creative process.

  1. Preparation stage which, consists of formulating a problem, studying previous work on it, and thinking
    intensely about it.
  2. Incubation stage, in which there is no visible progress on the problem; it may be periodically “mulled over,” but it is largely left dormant, allowing subconscious ideas about it to emerge.
  3. Illumination stage, in which an important insight about the problem is reached, often in a sudden, intuitive fashion.
  4. Verification stage the idea is tested and evaluated.

In conclusion, creativity is a multifaceted phenomenon encompassing various cognitive processes and behaviors. The approaches proposed by Torrance, Guilford, Getzels, Jackson, Wallach, and Kogan offer valuable insights into understanding and nurturing creativity. These theories emphasize the importance of divergent thinking, problem-solving skills, diverse intellectual operations, and the interplay between individual abilities and environmental factors in fostering creativity.

Understanding these diverse perspectives can guide educators, policymakers, and individuals seeking to enhance creative thinking abilities. By recognizing and embracing the multifaceted nature of creativity, society can better cultivate environments that nurture innovation and originality.


Guilford, J. P. (1950). Creativity. American Psychologist, 5(9), 444–454.

Torrance, E. P. (1966). Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking. Personnel Press.

Wallach, M. A., & Kogan, N. (1965). Modes of Thinking in Young Children: A Study of the Creativity-Intelligence Distinction. Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Getzels, J. W., & Jackson, P. W. (1962). Creativity and Intelligence: Explorations with Gifted Students. Wiley.


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