Taxonomies of Creativity

After Mark posted his thoughts, I recently completed two books on creativity, talent, and expertise: The Road to Excellence: The Acquistion of Expert Performance in the Arts and Sciences, edited by K. Anders Ericsson, and Creativity: From Potential to Realization, edited by Robert J. Sternberg Elana L. Grigorenko, and Jerome L. Singer. From the chapters in the book, it seems reasonable to divide the study of “creativity” to the study of talent, creativity, expertise, and invention. That is

  • Talent is the potential for Creativity, Expertise, and Invention
  • Creativity = Talent + training
  • Expertise = Creativity+ overtraining
  • Invention = Creativity + profitmotive


What is creativity?

Identifying expertise as a subset of creativity, rather than the reverse, is not something I’ve seen before. But I think it’s valid. Both rely on a high degree of domain-specific knowledge. The difference appears to be that mere Experts are foreclosed to creativity by over rigid mental structures, ignoring conflicting observations, lack of psychopathology, and other things that can be avoided by the looser (but still knowledge-rich) thinking of the creativity.

Beyond this, my other notes are more prosaic and deal with the creativity research itself. Such research is correlational, biographical clinical/on-site, laboratory, or computational. It studies domains such as academics, arts, sports, or professions. It follows the research agenda of cognitivism, social cognitivism, developmentalism, complex dynamic systems. Most researchers view creativity as domain-specific, though some argue it is domain-general.

4 thoughts on “Taxonomies of Creativity”

  1. “Identifying expertise as a subset of creativity, rather than the reverse, is not something I’ve seen before.”

    Interesting idea, because the assumption that expertise somehow precedes creativity underlies the concept of the “natural,” or the born expert, or worse (and more problematically feeding the narcissists), the “creative personality.”

  2. Hi Dan,

    I think you meant to say that invention = talent + training + profit motive. But I disagree. I believe in the old saying “necessity is the mother of invention”. I believe that the ingredient added to talent and training is a defined need (or specific problem). Or, as I’ve said in the When Bad Things Happen to Good Concepts posts, a clear context in which to apply a concept.


  3. fl,

    Thought you’d enjoy this While creative self-efficacy explained 34% of the variance in creativity, and creative intention explained 24% of the variance, “only cautious personality, not creative personality, was a significant predictor of creative self efficacy (β = -.42, p = -.001, and β = .1, p = .095). (Choi, 2004, p. 197).


    Well said. Choi (2004) mediates creativity with both self-efficacy and intention: even if you can do something, if you have no desire to, you simply won’t!

    Choi, J.N. (2004). Individual and contextual predictors of creative performance: The mediating role of psychological processes. Creativity Research Journal, 16(2 & 3), 187-199.

  4. Yet more research to show that encouraging the kiddies to “be whatever you want to be” and “be creative” and “take risks” isn’t really all that helpful in terms of turning them into genuinely creative thinkers. Woohoo!

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