Domain Specificity and the Limits of Creativity Theory
July 16, 2012 Editor 0
A growing body of research evidence suggests that creativity is very domain-specific and that domain-general skills or traits contribute little to creative performance. The term “creativity” is a convenient term for collecting many interesting artifacts, processes, and people into a single category, and the term “creative thinking skills” may be a useful way to connect a diverse set of unrelated cognitive processes that operate on different content and in different domains. These concepts are misleading, however, because although they connect things that may seem similar to observers, they lack any underlying cognitive psychological validity.
This has implications for the ways we understand and assess creativity, and also for how we should direct our efforts to develop creative-thinking skills in diverse domains. Creativity training needs either to target the domains in which creativity enhancement is desired or to use a wide range of activities in diverse domains if the goal is more general improvement in many domains. Creativity assessment needs to focus on domain-by-domain assessment and to review findings based on allegedly domain-general tests of creativity that may have misled researchers to unsupportable interpretations. Creativity theory needs to set more modest goals of domain-by-domain theory development and to recognize that theories that may seem domain-general might better be understood as meta-theoretical heuristics that do not actually describe domain-general processes. These meta-theories might in some cases help guide the search for domain-based theories.
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