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  • Creativity Research Network

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The Creativity Research Network explores how research on personal characteristics, the creative process, creative output and the working environment can contribute to creativity, innovation and design excellence. We are fascinated, and united, by questions such as: Why are some people more creative than others are? What influences encourage creativity? Is it possible to teach creativity?

In this respect, the network links to our MA Creative Thinking distance learning course at UCLan, and indeed, given the importance of stimulating creativity for design education, our findings have a direct impact on undergraduate and postgraduate curriculums: both theoretically and practically.

Through our diverse perspectives and specialist interest on creativity we cover a broad range of methodologies and practices: from quantitative, qualitative, mixed method to practice based.

Our interests are equally broad, but what bonds us together is our belief that quality research offers a substantial route to an informed understanding of creative achievement, and our appreciation, and acceptance, of the many forms creativity can take: from the artistic to the scientific.

On this site you will find a sample of our projects, and areas of interest to date, but for further information please contact the Director of the Creativity Research Network:

Karl K. Jeffries
Telephone: +44 (0)1772 895185
Fax: +44 (0)1772 892920

Expertise and Subject Areas

The impact of technology on creativity in design: an enhancement? Marilena Siamptani reports on the work by Bonnardel and Zenasni (2010), where the authors propose an approach centred on a designer’s cognitive process, using the argument that both the development of new computer-aided design (CAD) systems as well as their assessment, should be conducted on the basis of an understanding of that cognitive process. In addition, they argue that the assessment of these new systems should be conducted on the basis of heuristic evaluation or ergonomics principles, as well as the basis of understanding the designer’s cognitive process while using these new technologies. Three empirical studies are presented in this paper, which have been conducted to analyse the impact of these new technologies on the designer’s processes and therefore further our knowledge on whether the designer’s creativity is enhanced effectively from their use.

The Measurement of Creativity: From Definitional Consensus to the Introduction of a New Heuristic Framework. Claire Wild reports on Mark Batey’s paper. Through the presentation and analysis of current and historic literature related to defining creativity and the assessment of creativity, Batey presents a rationale for a New Heuristic Framework. This is a multi-componential model for the heuristic measurement of creativity and consists of a three-dimensional matrix that considers Level, Facet and the Measurement Approach.

The Impact of Culture on the Creative Potential of American, Russian and Iranian College Students. Cameron Iqbal reports on Kharkhurin and Motalleebi study of American, Russian and Iranian college student to examine the impact of sociocultural environment on creative potential. This was compared on the Abbreviated Torrance Test for Adults (ATTA). It was discovered that Iranians are least likely to reach a solution and examine a problem when compared to American and Russian students. As a result of such findings, Kharkhurin and Motalleebi called for a revising the originality of thinking when defining creativity.

The Investment Theory of Creativity: Tom Friar reports on The Investment Theory of Creativity developed by Robert J. Sternberg and Todd Lubart. The theory incorporates aspects of the Triarchic Theory of Intelligence (Sternberg, 1984) and the Theory of Mental Self Government (Sternberg, 1988). Drawing on aspects of economic theory and recognizing investment in metaphorical terms, the investment theory proposes that creative people, like good investors in financial markets, are those willing and able to ‘buy low and sell high’ in the realm of creative ideas. Buying low means pursuing ideas that are unknown or undervalued but have potential for growth. When these ideas are first presented they are likely to encounter resistance. In the face of resistance the creative individual persists and, in time, ‘sells high’, moving on to the next idea to repeat this process (Sternberg & Lubart, 1992). According to the investment theory six resources are necessary in creative ventures: intelligence, knowledge, personality, intellectual styles, motivation and environment.

Why isn’t Creativity more Important to Educational Psychologists? Jutta Odenwaelder reports Jonathan Plucker, Ronald Beghetto and Gayle Dow’s (2004) exploration on the question why creativity research has not had a bigger impact on educational psychology practices albeit overlapping concepts and theories. Through the analysis of 90 articles on creativity from various professional journals, the authors conclude that the main reason is the absence of a common definition of creativity for the social sciences due to existing myths and stereotypes regarding creativity and creativity research. Educational psychologist Plucker and colleagues propose their own definition and conclude that: “… change in the focus and direction of creativity research is needed if the field is to move from a shadowy past into the forefront of constructive approaches to educational psychology and the social sciences in general” (Plucker, Beghetto, Dow, 2004, p.93).

Which competencies are most important for creative expression? In a follow up to a previous study – over 13,000 people took part in an online test that measures 4 trainable competencies that have been shown to enhance creative expression
In individuals (Epstein & Phan, 2012, p.278). Tim Smithies reports on how this test of a greater group of people differed from the earlier test, and what competencies were the most valuable to developing creativity

Creativity and Convergent Thinking: Molly James reports on Cropley's in In Praise of Convergent Thinking: "Cropley defines convergent thinking as thinking that pursues the one correct answer to well-defined inquiry through the use of logic, known information and accepted convention. Conversely, he defines divergent thinking as thinking that pursues the discovery of many possible answers through the use of novelty in thought, as well as acceptance of surprise, exploration and ambiguity. While divergent thinking generates variability and novelty, Cropley contends it does not generate creativity apart from convergent thinking. He proposes creativity arises from a balanced combination of convergent and divergent thinking. For instance, convergent thinking allows one to understand the facts while divergent thinking allows one to take the facts, see them in a new light and rethink them to produce novelty. For novelty to be effective, and therefore creative, it must be meaningful, make sense, and be precise and free from error. For this to occur, Cropley suggests convergent thinking is essential. Convergent thinking begins from and leads to further knowledge. This pre-existing and newly found knowledge can enhance one’s ability to think divergently and therefore be more creative. (Cropley 2006, p. 391-392)..."

Creativity and Songwriting: Jemma Geoghan look at McIntyre's 2008 research: "In his article ‘Creativity and Cultural Production: A Study of Contemporary Western Popular Music Songwriting’, McIntyre uses ethnographic research methods to a) investigate creativity in popular songwriting, and b) support his assertion that it is Csikszentmihalyi’s systems model of creativity and Pierre Bordieu’s approach to cultural production that provide the most useful ways of studying creativity. Here, the author suggests that creativity in songwriting develops through the inter-dependent relationship of domain, field and person, and he explores the importance of the context and culture in which an artist works. He believes that the widely held notion of artists as unusually gifted individuals inspired by divine muses should be replaced with a more rational approach. McIntyre argues that, despite the frequency with which journalists, the music industry, performers and popular music audiences perpetuate this view, it has little foundation in the reality of the way in which most songwriters seem to work (i.e. the recording process and musical performance are often collaborative processes). He states that these myths should be replaced with an understanding of the songwriter as an individual making creative choices as part of a larger operational system, including music industry professionals, the media and popular music audiences..."

Creativity and Domain. Olivia Roe, reports on a number work relevant to the domain specificity of creativity: “As Plucker (1998) reflects, the historical assumption was that creativity could be generalised across content areas (p.179) but in more recent years, there has been debate over this. Is creative activity domain general, with certain skills or cognitions utilised in all manner of endeavour, or is creativity only specific to the domain or task of focus? In Baer‟s (1998), „A Note on Terminology‟ (p.173, 174), he notes that „domain‟ can refer to both broadly defined cognitive domains, such as „science‟, and more narrowly defined content or task domains like poetry writing; the latter of which some term microdomains and involves task specificity rather than domain specificity. Some researchers, such as Baer (1998) and Kaufman and Baer (2002), propose creativity may be specific, whereas others maintain the evidence supporting this is unconvincing (Plucker, 1998, p.180). Some of the research on this continuing debate is reported below with Baer and Kaufman‟s 2005 compromise model (the Amusement Park Theory-APT), that incorporates both domain general and domain specific aspects, briefly discussed. In this, they cite Plucker‟s later 2004 proposal of a hybrid approach to this debate (p.159)…”

Interpretive Artists. In this report, Ryan Laccohee looks at Jill Nemiro’s 1997 work. He states: "the purpose of this study was to analyse the creative process of interpretive, performing artists, specifically actors. Actors do not originate the work they perform but are still referred to as artists. Actors interpret the work of the originating artist, such as a script or play write. Much research on the creative process has been focused on the generative or originating artist and focused on the product and neglected the process itself. Improvisational creativity, where the process and product are co-occurring is distinguished by “the presence of social influences during the creative process and tensions between conscious and unconscious processes and between structured and innovative aspects of creative performance” (Nemiro, 1997, p. 229). Actors have many social influences such as other actors, audiences, directors and tensions between the characters and actors identity. The tension between the need for both structure and spontaneity is also an important factor to consider. Exploring how essential the actors viewed spontaneity or improvisation was also an objective of the study. Overall, the aim of this work was to investigate the creative process of actors (interpretive artists) and test the relationships and applicability of more general theories and concepts of creativity..."

Autism and Creative Thinking. Sender Maclean considers the work of Matson and the diagnosis of Autism: “...The spectrum of Autism research is important for numerous reasons including our deepening understanding of the brain and its functions as well as the possibility that it could point science in new directions regarding the underpinnings of creativity. It is for these reasons that new interest and studies have started to emerge in recent years. Numerous considerations arise surrounding the research methodologies and ethics in both Matson et al. papers (2009, 2010). Specifically questions related to the number of participants the researchers used and some of the results...”

Nationality and Creative Thinking. Carmen Anthony reflects on creative thinking in the East and West via the work of Rudowicz: “...Rather than highlight the intention to explore national and creative value ratings of an entire population as per Rudowicz and Yue (2002), Rudowicz et al (2009) placed their focus firmly upon exploring value perceptions of Polish and Chinese students. This intention led to the division of the study into two phases...”

Skills and Creativity. Karl K Jeffries presents the finding of his research on skills for creativity in games design: “…This paper reports on an experimental study to understand further the extent to which academics may differ to practitioners in their conception of skills relevant to creativity within a specific design related subject: in this instance, Games Design. Ten academics, sampled from BA Hons games courses in the UK, participated in identifying what factors they each considered important to creativity in games design, and how, collectively, they rated particular skills, knowledge, talents and abilities relevant to creativity in games design. With the same research methodology, theoretical framework and procedures, the focus was placed on ten games design practitioners’ conceptions of skills for creativity in games design. A detailed comparison is made between the findings from both groups…”

Gender and Creative Thinking. Sheamus Maclean considers two approaches to the study of gender and creative thinking: “…The authors concluded for the sample that there were few gender differences in creative thinking and that these differences did not apply for women with a high educational level (Matud et al, 2007, p.1144). The study found that educational levels had no effect on creative thinking for men, whereas women with university level education had significantly higher scores on most measures as compared to women with a primary or secondary education level (Matud et al, 2007, pp.1144-1145)...”

Publications and Outputs

For full-text access to each of these works please email

Olivia Roe: ‘If you’re happy and creative clap your hands’ - investigating the relationship between teachers’ affect and their creativity.

This study, for the first time, investigates the relationship between affect and creativity for teachers. Previous lab and field studies of other employees have found conflicting results. Some suggest there is a positive, linear relationship between positive affect and creativity. Others maintain negative affect can prompt creativity or even that creativity comes with extremes of emotion or when emotion is only moderate, as concave and convex U-shapes respectively. Here, to assess their creativity and affect, 30 teachers from a range of UK secondary schools completed daily surveys, sent via email, over a one-week time frame. These surveys repeated the same, established measures of affect and a newly adapted, reliable assessor of personal creativity for each day and at the end of the week, 150 separate daily scores for creativity, positive affect and negative affect were created. Analysis of these showed negative affect and creativity were not correlated and no U-shaped relationships were evident. However, positive affect was found to be significantly positively correlated to creativity meaning that for educators, there is a relationship between feeling positive and being creative. Various possible implications for school-wide creativity and teacher wellbeing enhancement are later explored, with conclusions also considered on the need for positive affect to be conclusively included in creativity theories.

Jemma Geoghan: Comparing Conceptions: What are the similarities and differences between researchers’ conceptions of creativity in two different stages of the English education system?

This project examines how researchers have defined and conceptualised creativity in the context of the English education system. It explores the approaches that have been used to study creativity through different historical and theoretical perspectives. A qualitative study using recent literature is used to compare researchers’ conceptions in the primary and secondary stages to suggest conceptual emphases. It argues that although the aspects of creativity relating to classification of person, product, process and press are inter-related, researchers in the primary phases emphasise processes and personal traits, and in the secondary phase emphasise products and processes; the emphasis given affects how the development of creativity is viewed. It is also argued that the theoretical approach to studying creativity is affected by domain. It proposes that a broader study to include the further and higher education stages would enable a wider view of how creativity is conceptualised through different age ranges.

Emma Aylett: What does research say about the relationship between teachers' and trainee teachers' conceptions of creativity, their experiential understanding of creativity and creative teaching?

From a period starting in the late 1990s the educational system in England has responded to an increased drive to foster creativity in children. This has been supported by educational policy and driven largely by a perceived need to equip the future workforce for the changing needs of the 21st century. An influential report published in 1999, All our futures: creativity, culture and education authored by the National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education [NACCCE], proposed a national strategy for creative education and offered a democratic definition of creativity. It emphasised the central role of teachers in teaching creatively and teaching for creativity. Although abundant pedagogic strategies for creative teaching have been developed there is little research which explores in depth the activity of creative teaching from the personal perspective of the teacher. This dissertation pulls together creativity research, undertaken in England since 1999, which focuses specifically on teachers and trainee teachers. Eleven studies have been identified. These indicate that trainee teachers hold narrow views or misconceptions about creativity in the classroom. The research also shows that personal engagement with a creative activity is a positive process for teachers and trainee teachers both in personal and pedagogical terms. However, the relationship between conceptions of creativity and personal creativity with creative teaching is complex and affected by factors such as emotional engagement and prescriptive and accountability. Further research which explores the dynamic of creative teaching within the classroom setting is recommended.

Shan Hargest: In two minds: brain function and controversy in creativity research

McGilchrist’s divided brain concept identifies two alternative viewpoints arising from the functioning of the brain hemispheres. The long-running and controversial debate about Blind Variation and Selective Retention in creativity was selected to investigate the existence of these viewpoints in creativity research. A literature review was conducted to investigate the history of the debate and identify the main arguments. These were related to relevant features associated with left and right hemisphere viewpoints in McGilchrist’s thesis. Making a comparison with criteria previously identified by Coan, Simonton and others as being held by two groups of psychologists, helped to clarify criteria relevant in this creativity research debate. Selected issues from contributions supporting and criticising Campbell and Simonton’s BVSR model were examined to determine if the controversy could be explained by McGilchrist’s “divided brain” concept. Four main arguments were found that linked reductionism and conservatism with support for BVSR, and holism and radicalism with criticism of the model. The meta-position of the divided brain concept clarified underlying issues in the debate. In addition the implication of ‘right- left-right’ hemisphere hierarchy and its relation to Hegelian dialectic were considered, to establish if possible routes towards synthesis in the debate could arise from the meta-position of McGilchrist’s thesis.

Carmen Bryne: How appropriate is the use of a collage task as an assessment tool for creativity?

The reputation of the Consensual Assessment Technique (CAT) is best surmised as “…sometimes…called the gold standard of creativity assessment”. (Kaufman, Plucker & Baer 2008 p55, Baer & McKool 2009 p2). As a benchmark for creativity assessment, founded upon expert judges’ creativity ratings of collage and poetry tasks, task selection and domain specificity of creativity are particular pertinent themes for discussion.
By spotlighting the Consensual Assessment Technique, this dissertation explores task selection, specifically the use of collage tasks in creativity research. Four questions underpin this thesis: Are collage tasks domain specific? Are collage tasks sample biased? Is collage simple to undertake? Is creating a collage time consuming? Subsequently, this will form wider analysis of the CAT as an assessment tool for creativity, the evolution of research using the CAT methodology since 1982 and discussion concerning the impact of the four queries above in relation to the Consensual Assessment Technique.

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Courses and Postgraduate Study


Karl K Jeffries
Clive Taylor
Jill Newsham
Steven Thornton