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The following program is produced by the University of Michigan broadcasting service under a grant in aid from the National Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters creativity a program from the series human behaviors social and medical research produced by the University of Michigan broadcasting service with special assistance from the Mental Health Research Institute of the University of Michigan. Today you will hear Professor Morris eye Stein of the psychology department of the University of Chicago. And my name is Glenn Philips. Questions about creative talent. Some of the most common research concentrated research is beginning to bear results. Time still must be the factor that will supply the absolute answer if indeed there can be absolute answers. This program certainly cannot provide the answers but we hope we have asked Dr. Stein those questions that are most often asked by each of us as laymen in today's program my questions have been re recorded for clarity.
First what is creativity needed find expression only in the so-called arts and no creativity finds its expression and many fields outside the arts I guess the notion of the arts stays with us. But it's also in the sciences. Management the administration teaching living generally what have you. I define creativity for myself as follows from a creativity is a process that results in novelty which is accepted as useful tangible or satisfying by a group. At some point in time now I use the notion of novelty because for creativity involves some real integration of the past with the present and the development of some kind of novel work. And it depends on the extent to which the novel work deviates from the status quo. That we will call someone a
genius. That is if the novel work deviates a great deal or will say he innovated something or he made something new. Nowadays I have a fear of that our society may die from a disease called creativity itis. In that any minor deviation is called creativity and when making a model this word into a mickle word or Peni word and where this probably could only happen in a democracy where we like to think that everybody can be creative in where. We almost have a pendulum swinging in the opposite direction from where it had been initially. We've gone through a stage of belittling our creative people and now we're sighing to say that everybody can be creative. And while this kind occur I think we still have to retain our language. I don't level with those people who are really outstandingly creative or really regarded in that fashion. And there are not all of us will
be. A genius. Not all of us are really very creative. I think we have them. We may make certain changes we may deviate to a greater or lesser extent but the creative person really takes a jump into the unknown eye when I jump because you really know it and there's just no doubt about it. So that that much with regard to novelty in my definition. I also said that the novel work had to be tenable useful or satisfying and that was to take care of the realm of I did is 10 ability usefulness of practical objects and satisfying and the aesthetic area so that you see implicit in my definition is the fact that creativity not only occurs in the arts but in other areas as well. I batted the notion of acceptability by a group because for me creativity can only occur in a social context. An individual who makes something new in his room in the attic and never makes it public
cannot be regarded as creative. I mean if this is the term creative as applied by a group to an individual and therefore it has to become manifest and this of course raises the whole issue as to what are the criteria that the group will use for creativity you know. That many instances in an industry for example nowadays Industrial Research Laboratories do have a concept of an eye age which means not invented here. If something turns up and hasn't been invented in their own laboratories they don't regard it as creative. But you can take it on I brought a social scale around. You follow the variations in the types of paintings that will hang in the one art gallery in the types of paintings that will hang another art gallery. Are all of them creative or are they not. Or are the criteria of the art
curator very important. I've heard the story of one art show for example for a very famous man in what would be called modern painting selected as the prize winning object in the show for a prize winning painting in the show. A very traditional piece. And when people asked him why did you regard this as creative it's not really very modern. Well he commented in such a fashion that indicated that he thought that only he himself could do modern painting and therefore he was ruled out all of the modern day paintings because he could always find something wrong with them. He selected the most traditional piece because he felt that was the best of what was left. So therefore these criteria of what the social group will decide is created when I created becomes very important and the last part of my definition had to do with the in some point in time takes care of historical factors where people were regarded as
creative in our own time or people whom we have rediscovered now were not regarded as creative when they lived. And there are these variations that have to be taken into account when you do a thorough a thorough study of creativity. Is it possible that either through these current studies or past human performances that one might be able to determine creativity in childhood. Well you get into a very difficult issue which has two parts to it the first is what is creativity and the other is the determination of creativity in childhood. For me creativity involves various stages and I prefer to think of it as being of three stages one of hypothesis formation hypothesis testing and a communication of results. Other people have spoken of it to stages the cycle analyst Chris has spoken of inspiration and elaboration
Reichenbach has called it the context of discovery in the context of verification. Now. When you use terms such as those then I don't think that they're really applicable to the child. I think what the child does is develop something new will make something new and it is creative in the sense that it is different from what has existed before. But the formal aspects of it's production do not reach the level of what we would regard as creative. Creativity is just not the expression of one's own needs and wishes in playful behavior but also it has a structure to it as well as both form and content that are interrelated. Now to that extent I would say that. The contradistinction to other people who like to believe this way. I don't think that children are creative in the
sense that we use that term for adults. I think they have potentialities for creativity and sometimes the creativity is trained out of them either by their parents or by educational institutions or by experiences of later in life. Now therefore it also becomes difficult when you turn to the second question about at what age can you discover this creativity. You may be able to discover a talent early in life. Some children will turn to the piano others will turn to painting. Others will manifest curiosity but not necessarily their creativity. You may be able to find the talented ones in the those that are curious about life and then try to provide them with specific opportunities so that they develop into creative people. And at what age this occurs the best of my knowledge there's no
no research yet has attempted to specify any specific age at which it is possible for this cover creative talent. Dr. Stein made the comment that creativity was trained out of children. I ask if this remark was to be interpreted that education was not handling the children properly. I would say that in some situations teachers and school systems do not handle their created child correctly in other situations they do the kinds of things that I'm thinking of on the negative side of those situations where a child's curiosity is inhibited or obstructed because those aren't the things that they teach or are instructor things thinks are the right things to do. The child who wants to go off and play or wants to set up his own laboratory experiment all is not going to be the neatest cleanest and most attentive child.
Really disrupts the classroom doesn't conform to the procedures that the instructor has set up. And this is one way that the teacher is confronted with a chronic crossroads does it try to get the child to conform to the behavior of all the other children or does it for him or does the teacher permit the child to fulfill his own needs by insisting that the child conform to the behavior of all the other children would be one way in which the creativity can be trained out of the child. However we must also realize that teachers have many many functions and I wouldn't want to put it all on the educational institutions as training out creativity. Teachers also have the function of training the child in and socialize behavior and especially in our society where the family has given over many of its functions to the teacher. We have overheard many teachers with things
which would really take place in the home. I think that many of the courses that were given of the so-called soft headed courses in cooking and home are. And then other kinds of things were functions that the family used to perform previously and now we've burdened the teachers with all of these functions where they became parents away from home rather than fulfilling their role as teachers. So I wouldn't be inclined to focus more on the school system. I think it's a broader problem than that including the family as well as the school. If a family has an orientation and a positive value system on creativity then I think this could override many things that occur within the school system or outside of the neighborhood. And if the father takes his role as father seriously and doesn't try to become a pal to his child but really fulfills the functions or roles of a father with discipline and love than a
specific value system he does all these things then he's fulfilling his function and he doesn't need anyone else to carry on outside as a mother. But when he can't fulfill that function and starts working for the school or for the church or for the Neighborhood Club to do all these things then we burden these other institutions with roles that they were really not set up to fulfill originally and they just can't get in to get around these things. I think it's a much broader societal problem than just confronting the school system itself is one any more or less creative when he possesses the ability to correlate outside facts let us say as opposed to the one with Nathan hair and creativity known. There are some people for whom it is a basic research or pure research which is what I assume you mean by this native kind of activity. They are regarded as more creative
because they tend to integrate a logic body knowledge read one of the reasons why Einstein is regarded as so creative is that he integrated in this theory. Lots more they could be integrated with Newton's theory of the fall. From this you get many things coming off. There are other people who will insist Well it's more important to develop. An outside object an external tangible object beneficiary. We found this to be true in the differences in the in the Greek period in the Roman period in the Greek Period thinking it was much more important than activity and anyone who built a bridge was not regarded as creative as somebody who had the theory about bridge building. Let us say it's only in the Roman period that pragmatic objects got to be more important so that as a psychologist I would not say that one man is more
creative than another. But I see my own role as trying to find out what the society really gods as more important in terms of creativity. I mean this is a societal problem and not a psychologist probably a psychologist I want to see people fulfill and utilize their abilities to the best of their capacity and to the greatest extent that will bring them the most happiness. Do persons with the creative ability tend to follow the stereotype that is a deviate from the accepted norms of behavior. But first let me tell you an anecdote. Now I give you more concrete evidence. Seven years ago I was like chewing at the National Physical Laboratory in England and one that the National Physical Laboratory is comparable to our own Bureau of Standards here in the States. And when this matter came up the director of the laboratory told the following story that he had a research man and he was to come to work and did not wear a
stock of socks and they sort of attributed this to the fact that he was probably a deviant. And since he was a very creative individual nobody wanted to to disturb him in any way therefore no comments were made about his lack of socks. Finally one day he came in wearing socks and the director of a laboratory called him in and said John we're really curious about something. For a long period now you haven't been wearing socks and now you are. How come. Well John looked at the director of the laboratory and said you may have forgotten but last week you gave me a raise and I think this indicates some of the notions that we sometimes attribute to the creative individual. All kinds of deviant behavior when there are some realistic kinds of things that they are involved in such as this one instance the lack of money but are turning to a more general sense. I would say that the creative individual is someone who
does deviate from the from conformity. He's not a deviant. I regard him more as somebody who is autonomously detached from other people namely he wants to go his own way. He has his own things that he is interested in. He is not for example necessarily just to cite a fictitious example he may not be someone who wants a put on a different suit every day. Because this is just too time consuming at the whereas one suit all the time he has one decision Les to make when he gets up in the morning. He can keep thinking about the ideas that he has to solve. Back in the laboratory or at the gallery or what have you other people looking at him they say my God look at this man and he just doesn't change his clothes he's a deviant. Well within his own framework he's not. He wants a go zone way and he's actually a very democratic individual. He says I'll go my way I'll respect your wishes to go your
way but please respect my wishes to go my way. I call him or tunnel mostly detached to distinguish him from the person that we when we might really regard it as a deviant as the hostile alienated individual who is also separate from the environment but he's alienated from his environment he's hostile about it either as alienation or a towards the environment the creative individual is really detached in his own value systems. The matter of conformity or the things that the rest of the society may hold is very important. I just don't have the same meaning to him. He doesn't have a car with a certain number of fins on it or he doesn't live in a magnificent building or if he doesn't have certain appliances in his house these things just don't matter to him as much as they do to other people. I think we then. The rest of the society likes to regard him as deviant because in a way he's a threat to us because he is first generating new
information and he keeps us off base. And if we can then turn to say oh you're a deviant surreptitiously we've cut him down to size. You see we have finally found the way in which we are better than he is. Just as in previous years we used to call the creative man crazy or as we did in our own society we call them egg heads which was not a matter of adoration but it was not a lot of sarcasm and hostility involved with the creative man. But the creative man. Really is going his own way and these terms about deviance we try to bring them down to size. You're calling him deviant egghead neurotic psychotic or what have you. And I think that's the real purpose of it. For many individuals ridden when he does the deviates from the rest of us because he is creative he is generating new knowledge. Many of us are just as happy to go along with the knowledge that we
possess and we never deviate. We are constantly conforming to a creative individual that is in a sense irritated with the status quo. This doesn't mean he's a revolutionary in any sense. He just looks at what exists and says Can't this be different not necessarily better but can it be different. So many people look at what exists and if you destroy the sameness for them they're all upset. And one of the companies we studied for example we found that the creative men were more disliked than the men who were not so creative because the creative men would generate new processes and they would upset the apple cart. They come up with a new technique which everyone else had to learn. Well one of the things we don't like to do in our adult life is to get out of the rut we're in. So someone comes up and says Now here's a different way to do it. And it means getting out of the rut. Well isn't it better if we can call them some dirty names. Along the same lines are there any established facts to suggest the geniuses of history have possessed strong neuroses.
We don't know yet on that. Some people would say that let's assume that an individual who is creative has a manic depressive psychosis. Some people have suggested well maybe that person's clearest moment is when he is being creative. You see because we know that no psychotic in a state hospital has developed any kind of creative think if this were true then that something's wrong. You see then all the schizo friend acts in the psychotic should be discovering things on the thing and this doesn't happen. Now. The other notion is that when the individual is in the process of creating. He appears to be so inspired that he does strike us as someone who is maybe mentally unbalanced in some fashion. For example many people have developed varying
techniques for getting inspired balls Act used to wear a monkish working surely used to put his feet into hot water. Somebody else kept the rotten apple in his desk to get inspired people to develop what one man suggested as advice to young people who wanted to get inspired. Something why they should drink in moderation ride on horseback and provided they are chased to look at beautiful women. These are all very techniques. Now we all know that these techniques are not only necessary for inspiration for some individuals but most of us when we have to sit down to write a report or write a letter or write a paper would like to have our desk in a specific fashion. We go through a kind of ritual with all the pencils have to be sharpened. They all have to be short pencils all lead pencils or red pencils. While creative people have different techniques for themselves. After having stimulated the this matter of inspiration in these different ways people get aghast at them
and they try to figure out what is and so and so psychotic or what have you. So this is one other thing that contributes to such. The other matter that has been raised is it is not the creative process such an intense process that it makes people psychotic. You say that because the matter of rising above and going into the unknown of frost for example describes the fact that when he is writing a poem he has to smoke five cigarettes simultaneously to keep himself in contact with the outside world. You see you know he's really going into the unknown. We say a psychologist who's losing his contact with reality. You see because this is a big jump and he has no structure all we have to do is an analogy imagine yourself swimming way out far from the shoreline and you don't know whether going to be able to get back on not. This could be very panicking. You see the same thing can operate for the creative individual whether the process itself doesn't induce the neurosis or the psychosis in those cases where it occurs and here I'm not
saying that these two are related but these have been the questions that have been raised. Current research just well as past research about creativity is of course a vastly important Dr. Stein discussed some of the research he feels has contributed to knowledge on creativity. Well there have been several kinds of things that have helped our own. One has been the study of the individual from many aspects. By that I mean that there's no longer the seeking of a simple and sovereign solution to the problem. We go back to the history of studies are creativity. We no longer take the MMU was as important. We no longer look simply to theories about brain functions are we no longer look to the notions of that the creative individual is psychotic or neurotic or what have you. But there is an attempt to study the individual from many vantage points. From
here on in. Investigators vary. For example Guilford at University of Southern California studies the individual with a variety of psychological tests and he tries to see the factors that are involved in creative persons. The people at the institute the first anality assessment the research at Berkeley University of California Berkeley invite creative individuals and study them for a three day period under intensive observation in my own work. We study individuals for the psychological side and the social side where we try to integrate both factors simultaneously so that the biggest advances in recent years a methodology has been an intensive study of the individual from a variety of angles in terms of theoretical developments. We have a book coming out shortly which summarizes certain selections from the psychological psychiatric literature. And there you can
find practically every theory conceivable has been related to creativity so that there's been no real theoretical major theoretical offenses. I would say rather they advance has been an ad an attempt to get more empirical data and they are in an unbiased fashion. Terms of thinking up theory really fun in terms of thinking about the problem. People are coming around to the notion that there are other types of creativity. For example we no longer can really talk about the creative individuals. We have to differentiate between the discoverer and the inventor. We have to see whether there what are the differences between the painter and the sculptor. What are the differences between the theoretical physicists and the experimental physicist. In my own work for example which is concerned primarily with chemists we know that there are differences between physical chemists and organic chemists
and so so that one has to try to figure out one of these differences in the relationship between the man and his field and then to see what would be involved in terms of creativity. So my conceptual framework goes as follows that we try to analyze the creative process in a specific field and then we say well how should an individual be programmed. If you wish to use computer terminology in order to fulfill the requirements of his field and we believe that there would be certain aspects of the mathematician that would be very different from what they are with the canvas. Just take the one variable of abstraction the capacity to deal with abstractions. Chemistry is a more concrete sort of field than is mathematics. Well how does one individual or how and why does one individual turn to an abstract field and how why does an individual turn to a more tangible concrete field and my own orientation which is heavily laden with psychoanalytic theory.
We try to determine this in terms of a man's relationship with his parents his early life experiences and how he sees the world about him at the present time. But this is just one orientation other people have not concentrated in this what I call this type ology notion. This has been an interview with Professor Morris eye Stein of the University of Chicago on the subject of creativity. Next week we invite you to listen to a discussion about the use of computers as simulators on the next program from the series. Human behavior social and medical research consultant for this program was Dr. Raymond Wagner of the University of Michigan. We extend our special thanks to the Mental Health Research Institute of the University of Michigan for their assistance. Glenn Phillips speaking asking that you join us next week and thanking you for being with us at this time.
This program has been produced by the University of Michigan broadcasting service under a grant in aid from the National Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is the NEA E.B. Radio Network.
Behavioral science research
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University of Michigan
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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This program focuses on research into creativity. Guest is Morris I. Stein, Ph.D., University of Chicago.
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A documentary series on behavioral science and its role in understanding human health.
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Host: Cowlin, Bert
Interviewee: Stein, Morris I. (Morris Isaac), 1921-2006
Producing Organization: University of Michigan
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 61-36-11 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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Duration: 00:29:37
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Chicago: “Behavioral science research; Creativity,” 1961-07-03, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 13, 2024,
MLA: “Behavioral science research; Creativity.” 1961-07-03. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 13, 2024. <>.
APA: Behavioral science research; Creativity. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from