Creativity is a phenomenon whereby something new and somehow valuable is formed. The created item may be intangible (such as an idea, a scientific theory, a musical composition, or a joke) or a physical object (such as an invention, a literary work, or a painting).
In a summary of scientific research into creativity, Michael Mumford suggested: "Over the course of the last decade, however, we seem to have reached a general agreement that creativity involves the production of novel, useful products" (Mumford, 2003, p. 110), or, in Robert Sternberg's words, the production of "something original and worthwhile". Authors have diverged dramatically in their precise definitions beyond these general commonalities: Peter Meusburger reckons that over a hundred different analyses can be found in the literature. As an illustration, one definition given by Dr. E. Paul Torrance described it as "a process of becoming sensitive to problems, deficiencies, gaps in knowledge, missing elements, disharmonies, and so on; identifying the difficulty; searching for solutions, making guesses, or formulating hypotheses about the deficiencies: testing and retesting these hypotheses and possibly modifying and retesting them; and finally communicating the results.
The rejection of creativity in favor of discovery and the belief that individual creation was a conduit of the divine would dominate the West probably until the Renaissance and even later. The development of the modern concept of creativity begins in the Renaissance, when creation began to be perceived as having originated from the abilities of the individual, and not God. This could be attributed to the leading intellectual movement of the time, aptly named humanism, which developed an intensely human-centric outlook on the world, valuing the intellect and achievement of the individual. From this philosophy arose the Renaissance man (or polymath), an individual who embodies the principals of humanism in their ceaseless courtship with knowledge and creation. One of the most well-known and immensely accomplished examples is Leonardo da Vinci.
The formal psychometric measurement of creativity, from the standpoint of orthodox psychological literature, is usually considered to have begun with J. P. Guilford's 1950 address to the American Psychological Association, which helped popularize the topic and focus attention on a scientific approach to conceptualizing creativity. (It should be noted that the London School of Psychology had instigated psychometric studies of creativity as early as 1927 with the work of H. L. Hargreaves into the Faculty of Imagination, but it did not have the same impact.) Statistical analysis led to the recognition of creativity (as measured) as a separate aspect of human cognition to IQ-type intelligence, into which it had previously been subsumed. Guilford's work suggested that above a threshold level of IQ, the relationship between creativity and classically measured intelligence broke down.
Incubation is a temporary break from creative problem solving that can result in insight. There has been some empirical research looking at whether, as the concept of "incubation" in Wallas' model implies, a period of interruption or rest from a problem may aid creative problem-solving. Ward lists various hypotheses that have been advanced to explain why incubation may aid creative problem-solving, and notes how some empirical evidence is consistent with the hypothesis that incubation aids creative problem in that it enables "forgetting" of misleading clues. Absence of incubation may lead the problem solver to become fixated on inappropriate strategies of solving the problem. This work disputes the earlier hypothesis that creative solutions to problems arise mysteriously from the unconscious mind while the conscious mind is occupied on other tasks. This earlier hypothesis is discussed in Csikszentmihalyi's five phase model of the creative process which describes incubation as a time that your unconscious takes over. This allows for unique connections to be made without our consciousness trying to make logical order out of the problem.
In 1992, Finke et al. proposed the "Geneplore" model, in which creativity takes place in two phases: a generative phase, where an individual constructs mental representations called preinventive structures, and an exploratory phase where those structures are used to come up with creative ideas. Some evidence shows that when people use their imagination to develop new ideas, those ideas are heavily structured in predictable ways by the properties of existing categories and concepts. Weisberg argued, by contrast, that creativity only involves ordinary cognitive processes yielding extraordinary results.
Some researchers have taken a social-personality approach to the measurement of creativity. In these studies, personality traits such as independence of judgement, self-confidence, attraction to complexity, aesthetic orientation, and risk-taking are used as measures of the creativity of individuals. A meta-analysis by Gregory Feist showed that creative people tend to be "more open to new experiences, less conventional and less conscientious, more self-confident, self-accepting, driven, ambitious, dominant, hostile, and impulsive." Openness, conscientiousness, self-acceptance, hostility, and impulsivity had the strongest effects of the traits listed. Within the framework of the Big Five model of personality, some consistent traits have emerged. Openness to experience has been shown to be consistently related to a whole host of different assessments of creativity. Among the other Big Five traits, research has demonstrated subtle differences between different domains of creativity. Compared to non-artists, artists tend to have higher levels of openness to experience and lower levels of conscientiousness, while scientists are more open to experience, conscientious, and higher in the confidence-dominance facets of extraversion compared to non-scientists.
In 2005, Alice Flaherty presented a three-factor model of the creative drive. Drawing from evidence in brain imaging, drug studies and lesion analysis, she described the creative drive as resulting from an interaction of the frontal lobes, the temporal lobes, and dopamine from the limbic system. The frontal lobes can be seen as responsible for idea generation, and the temporal lobes for idea editing and evaluation. Abnormalities in the frontal lobe (such as depression or anxiety) generally decrease creativity, while abnormalities in the temporal lobe often increase creativity. High activity in the temporal lobe typically inhibits activity in the frontal lobe, and vice versa. High dopamine levels increase general arousal and goal directed behaviors and reduce latent inhibition, and all three effects increase the drive to generate ideas. A 2015 study on creativity found that it involves the interaction of multiple neural networks, including those that support associative thinking, along with other default mode network functions.
A study looking at 300,000 persons with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or unipolar depression, and their relatives, found overrepresentation in creative professions for those with bipolar disorder as well as for undiagnosed siblings of those with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. There was no overall overrepresentation, but overrepresentation for artistic occupations, among those diagnosed with schizophrenia. There was no association for those with unipolar depression or their relatives. Another case study suggested a difference between severe mood disorders and "creative melancholy", pointing out mild and moderate depression may inspire creative achievements while severe depression inhibits and may even destroy creative activity.